News & Media

Ag community comes together over breakfast

11/18/2015 Lititz Record Express By Rochelle A. Shenk

Nearly 110 people turned out in Manheim Friday for the third annual Farmer’s Breakfast hosted by Pennsylvania state Rep. Mindy Fee and state Sen. Ryan Aument. It was sponsored by PennAg.

Those attending the event included Lancaster County Dairy Princess Lacey Costa, a student at Lancaster County Career & Technology Center; former state Sen. Noah Wenger; Manheim FFA members; students in an AP science class that’s part of Manheim Central’s Agricultural Education program; and members of the farming community.

Costa was not the only “royalty” at the event, 2015 Manheim Farm Show Queen Alternate and FFA member Corryn Wolgemuth led the Pledge of Allegiance. Dan Heller, the 2015 recipient of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s George C. Delp Award, gave the invocation. The owner of Lititz-based Flintrock Corp. Heller received the Delp Award, which recognizes a resident or business in Lancaster County for outstanding dedication to preserving and enhancing agriculture in Lancaster County, Thursday evening.

The breakfast, which was held during the county’s Ag Week, not only provided an opportunity for those in the local ag community to meet and exchange ideas, but they also heard an update on the efforts to bridge the state budget impasse. The state has been operating without a budget since July 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year. “We appear to be closing in on a potential deal; your feedback as leaders in the ag industry is important to us,” Aument told those at the breakfast.

He explained that at the heart of the potential agreement is property tax reform that will go hand-in-hand with an increase in the state sales tax. There’s also a pension reform component in the proposal that was still being negotiated at that time.

Guest speaker state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said, “We’re hopeful that the top issues can be addressed in this proposal.”

The former dean of Delaware Valley College’s agriculture and environmental sciences, Redding is no stranger to agriculture or the political arena. He served as secretary of agriculture under Gov. Ed Rendell. Redding grew up on a dairy farm and now operates a farm in the Gettysburg area.

“It is always good to be in Lancaster County and to celebrate the ag community in the county. The strategic needs of agriculture in Lancaster County are issues that reach across the state and the nation,” he said.

He saluted the Manheim Central Ag-Ed program.

“The solid science that’s part of both the ag-ed and FFA program here sets the standard for the state. Agriculture is at the center of some of the most important issues of our time including economic and environmental issues. We cannot do what we have to do without cooperation from across the government including the Department of Education. We look ag science for not only how we teach, but also to develop leadership for today’s real world,” he stressed.

“STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) is a focus in education right now. We call our program STEAM since was add the agriculture component,” explained Manheim Central Ag-Ed instructor Deb Seibert.

Redding added that Lancaster Lebanon IU-13 is the only IU in the state to use agriculture to teach science. He pointed out that for the first time in 40 years the Department of Agriculture has a representative on the state Workforce Investment Board, which he sees as a good sign since jobs in the ag industry are evolving with technology and science.

“We also want to look at the technology programs they are underserved,” he stated.

Perhaps one of the most critical issues facing the agriculture community today is biosecurity.

“There’s a lot of product that moves in and around this county. We need to know who is coming and going on farms and where they’ve been. This is not simply a discussion about poultry and the risk of highly pathogenic avian influenza (also known as HPIA), but this needs to be an ongoing discussion,” Redding stressed.

He credited PennAg with reaching out to the department and the ag community early on to help develop a plan to protect flocks and avoid an outbreak of HPIA. Information provided by Fee’s office indicates that an infection in one flock could result in all the chickens within a two-mile radius being depopulated. Additionally as the result of the sanitation that would be required, the infected farm would experience tremendous financial losses during the months that it would be out of operation.

“The real pain of HPIA is not just the loss of birds, but getting back in business,” Redding explained, “We are in a high-risk period for infection today, but I think our peak priority must be over the winter months-January and February.”

With regard to Chesapeake Bay initiatives, he said that it’s entering a new phase and “expectations with regard to reduction of nitrates and phosphates have been ratcheted up for the state.”

He explained that the Department of Agriculture has pledged to work with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the federal EPA.

“From the beginning we’ve said that you can’t get the quality of results that we’re looking for without cooperation between governmental agencies, municipal authorities and other sectors.”

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