by Stephen Wagner
The message was clear at this year’s PA Cattlemen’s Association (PCA) annual meeting and banquet — Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware.
Colin Woodall, senior vice president for Government Affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, was the lead-off speaker at the 2018 PCA’s banquet in State College, PA. Only six weeks prior, Woodall spoke to dairymen in Lancaster County about Washington’s political fine-tunings that impact agriculture across the country. Referencing the Omnibus Bill, he cited the good news that affects so many cattle producers. He said, “We are not going to have to report our air emissions to the EPA.”
WOTUS (Waters of the United States) is another burden that has been lifted off the backs of farmers. Woodall said that no longer would detachments of the Army Corps of Engineers be coming onto farms to order how waters on that specific piece of land are to be used. “That is dead!” he said.
One thing Woodall notes he would like to see in the upcoming Farm Bill: “We would like to see that there is an effort to help us establish a vaccine bank for Foot and Mouth Disease to make sure that we are protected. We do not want to see our industry devastated with a reintroduction, whether intentional or accidental, of this plague.”
State Veterinarian Dave Wolfgang added that so-called ‘secured food programs’ had a lot of traction in the last several years, but “they are programs that really go across ag commodities to protect herds and flocks in case we have dangerous transmittable diseases. High-path AI was the poster child for that. But we have similar programs within the country for beef, dairy and pigs. Pennsylvania is extremely vulnerable; if we have a deadly disease come into the state, it would devastate our industry.”
Congressman Glenn Thompson represents a district as large as the six smallest states, one that has recently been redistricted. He reminded his audience that “the Farm Bill does not expire until November 30th of this year, and if we were doing business as usual, we would still be working on the Farm Bill in September of next year.” Farm income has been down for at least four years, he said. “The rural economy has been depressed. Without a robust rural economy, people in the cities wake up cold, in the dark and hungry.”
Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Keller is a member of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee. “At the Pennsylvania Farm Show this year,” said Keller, “we had a calving corner, which was overwhelmingly accepted.” But, he added, “With what is happening with dairy farmers, you could wonder how that might affect you as a beef producer. Absolutely, it will…When those dairy farmers are gone, what do you suppose that will do to beef prices?”
“I and my staff have gotten pretty close to Cosmo,” said PA State Representative Dave Zimmerman, referring to Cosmo Servidio. Six months prior to the Cattlemen’s banquet, Servidio was named by the EPA to serve as regional administrator for that agency’s Region 3, one of 10 such regions across the country. Region 3 encompasses Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
“Cosmo is working hard to bring common sense back to EPA,” said Zimmerman. “I really believe that from a prior administration, the EPA was actually a boogeyman, but all that has changed. There’s been a big disconnect between EPA and DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] in Pennsylvania. Getting the two agencies to work together has to happen somewhere along the way. Thirty-seven percent of all the agriculture products that move out of Pennsylvania are moved through NAFTA to Mexico, Canada…That’s huge. When Mark [Keller] mentioned that dairy cattle are going to be moving to market and how it could affect your prices. We are back to nine million dairy cows in this country.”
Zimmerman cited a bill that’s been introduced that would get rid of an extra tax levied on sodas in Philadelphia. How does that relate to beef cattle? “If the government can tax something like soda,” he reasoned, “what’s going to keep them from taxing fat in milk, from beef, from anything like that?” Zimmerman co-sponsored a soda tax rollback bill, which would also protect beef.
The PA Cattlemen’s Association honored Steve Reichard with the Top Hand Award. “This award is presented to the member who encourages others to become more involved in the PCA,” said presenter Tina Hicks-Kern. “He has recruited members during the PA Performance Bull Sale, Ag Progress Days and during the Head Waters Grazing Conference.” He was presented with a shirt that “looks so like you.”
Dan Kniffen presented the scholarship awards. One scholarship award was for $500 and the other was for $1,000. “Our first recipient was showing red angus cattle from before she was born,” Kniffen said in presenting the first award ($500) to Ashli Quick. The $1,000 scholarship award went to Chandler Kern, who, it was said, “was a young lady who was always up front and center, trying to get things done, making sure they happened. If she has one minor fault, boy, talk about impatient. If you’re not getting your work done, she’s on you.”
The Cattlemen’s Awards
- Commercial Cow/Calf — Port Cattle Company: John-Scott Port owns and operates Clarion Farms Beef with his dad and uncle. Thanks to the Beef Barn, their on-farm store and his involvement with the Pittsburgh Public Market, John-Scott has the opportunity to interact one-on-one with consumers to educate them about beef production and provide a positive outlook for the industry.
- Seedstock Breeder — Windy Butte Ranch: Dan Kniffen, with his dad and brother, have worked for more than 60 years to develop a production-based herd of purebred cattle. With his wife, Ann Swinker, tradition maintains and continues a diversified cattle, horse and hay operation.
- The Industry Service Award was presented to Brian and Becky Hrutkay. “The Hrutkays realize the importance of the family farm and the need to educate the community on the importance of the beef industry.” Brian is involved in mentoring youth in the livestock community and instilling in them his love for agriculture.
The Special Appreciation Award is given in appreciation to the member who has gone above and beyond the expectations of the membership they are serving. Rachel McQuiston was the recipient.
The Cattle Feeder Award was presented to Ste-Wan Farms in central Pennsylvania, where Steve and Wanda Hook are known for raising only best-bred Simmental cattle resulting in tender, large and flavorful beef.
Two Junior Cattlemen, Wesley Burleigh and Nigel Howe, and two Junior Cattlewomen, Ashli Quick and Allison Schmuck, received Junior Awards.