‘GT’ Thompson: Return to Farming Roots Could Spur Population Growth
KNOX, Pa. (EYT) – The Clarion Venango Forest County Farm Bureau quickly satisfied its mission to be an active and unified voice of the Clarion Venango Forest County Farms on Friday morning at a legislative breakfast at the Big Country Restaurant in Knox.
Legislators and local elected officials attending the breakfast included Congressman GT Thompson, State Senator Scott Hutchinson, State Representative Lee James, Donna Oberlander’s Office, Venango County Commissioners “Chip” Abramovic, and Mike Delaney, Clarion County Commissioners Ted Tharan, Ed Heasley, and Wayne Brosius, and State Pennsylvania Farm Board (PFB) director Ernie Mattiuz.
Talking points were offered by the PFB regarding the agricultural industry in the three counties by Brittany Eisenman, PFB Region 6 Organization Director.
Thompson is the House Agriculture Committee’s GOP leader and touched on many of the talking points as an expert in agriculture. He is now the most senior Republican on the House Agriculture Committee and the second most senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee.
“One of my primary goals for the Agriculture Committee is to restore a robust role, and that starts with our farm families,” said Thompson. “It’s making sure they have a decent living for as hard as what they have for work. It expands all over American communities. This approach can invite everybody to live in a rural area.
“I think if we do that right, then we accomplish the second one, which is we begin to repopulate our areas. We grow our population. We create opportunities and provide the right amenities to keep our kids here. We can provide a lot, especially millennials who are tired – they’re tired of 600 square feet studio apartments in buildings with 800 people, showering in place, and, tired of the traffic.”
Thompson said some people are just tired of crime, school systems’ difficulties, and the cost of living and will move if the local areas become more attractive. However, if a community doesn’t have the amenities people are looking for, they may not proceed.
“You’re not going to stay if you don’t have the amenities, and to me, that starts with high-speed Internet connectivity.”
Precision agriculture is about growing the economy.
“I think it just levels the playing field, and that’s one of my top priorities. Precision agriculture, healthy soils, livestock, and livestock in pastures stimulate root growth. The pastureland ranchland amount of carbon is sequestered and makes agriculture really carbon neutral. It’s incredible. And then you add an air one that is a multiple egg industry in our area. It’s forestry; those are if we’re managing those for us if we’re doing okay, and bring numerous generations of trees and enforce the most significant cards. “
Political balance in Washington is now pretty even, according to Thompson. He has his eye on budget confirmation by reconciliation that allows a simple majority to approve the budget.
One area that concerns him is socially disadvantaged farmers.
If you’re a farmer from one of six ethnic origins, any agricultural loans to have Direct Loans from FSA for guaranteed loans to banks or credit unions would be forgiven at a rate of a hundred and twenty percent. (The 20 percent would cover any income tax on the forgiven loan.)
“Discrimination should never be tolerated, but the proposed legislation would not require any proof of discrimination and be based solely on that person come in from one of six ethnic origins,” said Thompson.
Dairy continues to be another concern for Thompson. He feels a drop in milk consumption can be tied directly to the nutritional standards that were first instituted for school lunches.
“I have always had a good relationship with Tom Vilsack, the new secretary of agriculture, and hope to find some common ground. He’s always supported me in doing our best to restore the milk fat into our schools and dairy. My team knows that that this a priority because of how they affected an entire generation. I don’t have specific solutions to share with you right now. Just know that I am going to continue.”
Both Clarion and Venango County Commissioners talked extensively about their efforts to improve Internet connectivity. The Internet highway now goes through Clarion County, and recent efforts such as building new emergency communication towers in Clarion County help build the off roads. However, a commercial entity is usually required to take the last step and provide service to homes. Some companies are not yet ready to make that connection because of a small customer base in some cases.
Some of the Pennsylvania Farm Board talking points include the following:
• Like many taxpayers, Pennsylvania farm families, are looking for tax laws that create a level of uniformity between federal and state tax laws.
While there are apparent differences between taxes at both state and federal levels, such as tax brackets and personal income taxes, in some cases, the lack of uniformity and clarity confuses taxpayers. We support multiple changes to state tax laws that will bring consistency between state and federal tax policy.
Besides, we seek changes to the state’s unemployment tax laws to clarify that farmers do not need to pay unemployment taxes on temporary foreign workers here under H2A visas.
Lastly, we seek legislation that defines the way farmers can claim sales tax deductions for all-terrain vehicles, which are routinely used on farms to complete everyday business tasks.
• Rural Pennsylvania is being left behind in the digital divide.
This reality was made all the more real by the COVID-19 crisis, which drove many daily tasks into an online environment. Due to a lack of investment in rural communities, many school children could not connect to the Internet for virtual learning. Parents cannot take advantage of the safety and convenience of telemedicine.
Parents struggle with the ability to work from home. The lack of adequate broadband service cuts across every aspect of our lives. It’s created a system of haves and have nots that a person’s ZIP Code predicates. Quite often, it’s rule residents that are left behind. Steps have been made to improve broadband service. however, the work is far from complete. We are back in efforts to create a state-wide broadband authority to better coordinate development across the state.
Also, we support legislation that will give the municipal authority the ability to offer broadband service if private enterprise is not making an adequate investment.
•Pennsylvania’s dairy industry is the largest sector of Pennsylvania Agriculture responsible for $28 billion in economic impact for the state’s economy.
Unfortunately, the number of dairy farmers continues to decline nationally and closer to home. Pennsylvania lost nearly 500 dairy farms last year. Many of the problems that plague the dairy industry falls on the backs of shifting consumer demands and international trade.
But, there are steps that the Pennsylvania government can take to open up new market opportunities and help more Pennsylvania milk that is processed and sold in the state.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau supports multiple legislative efforts to encourage additional processing capacity, bring needed changes to laws governing the sale of milk in Pennsylvania, and clarify how milk can be transported during storms.
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