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Farm Bureau pushing for agriculture advocacy

October 27, 2010

Ernie Mattiuz, vice president and secretary of the Elk County Farm Bureau, tours the Mobile Ag Lab stationed outside the St. Marys Area Middle School this week. Photo by Amy Cherry

Formed in 1974, the Elk County Farm Bureau has been an advocate for area farmers and the agriculture industry, and has provided education about the importance of farming.
“Our main purpose is to keep an eye on legislative policies that threaten the agriculture industry,” said Diane Gahr, Elk County Farm Bureau education director. “Next, we focus on education.”
Gahr said the bureau attempts to recruit local teachers to participate in the “Ag In the Classroom” workshops. The week-long workshops, sponsored by Penn State, allow teachers to participate in hands-on experiments, animal education and field research.
Teachers earn Act 48 credits or Penn State graduate credits as part of the program.
“We try to get them information to bring into the classroom to teach students the value of agriculture,” Gahr explained. “It’s kind of disappointing because we have not had any teachers step up in the past three years.”
The Farm Bureau also works on recruiting new members. The younger members promote the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.
“Farming in our area is truly dying,” Gahr said. “The young people don’t seem to have picked up on it and they’re going to have to.”
Currently the Elk County Farm Bureau has 54 regular members, all of whom are somehow involved in the agriculture industry. These members pay dues in the amount of $75 per year.
The organization has 11 associate members. While these members may utilize farm bureau services they are not permitted to vote, cannot hold office or present legislative policies.
There are 54 Farm Bureaus in Pennsylvania, with Elk County being the smallest of them. Every fall each bureau conducts an annual meeting. As part of this meeting members bring policies to the table. These issues are passed on to the Policy Development Committee in Camp Hill who present the issues to Harrisburg legislators.
“We also cover topics relating to schools, taxes, etc.” said Ernie Mattiuz, Elk County Farm Bureau vice-president and secretary.
For more on this story see the October 28 edition of The Daily Press.

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