Thank you Consumers!

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June 1, 2018

Dear Whole Milk Consumers,

We just wanted to let you know that milk consumption has increased and we want to thank you for consuming 2.2% more conventional and organic whole milk in February!

It has truly made a difference for the dairy producers and we hope the trend will continue in the March and April reports.

If you bought an extra gallon of milk with the thought of helping a farmer or know someone who did, please share this post and give yourself a huge hug from all of us!

Sincerely, Melissa Bravo, M.S., CCA, on behalf of all the Dairy Moms out there!
http://agricultureadvocate.org/

Milk Market Board Hearing Update

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Caption: Melissa Bravo speaks of local milk being highlighted. She holds up Chocolate Gold (3.5fat 8.75 solids) California Standard Milk from Pa farms – Photo by Mike Eby.

Yesterday I drove down to Harrisburg to the PA Milk Market Board to give witness statement at the second special hearing that was called for by the Department of Agriculture http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/Petition%20for%20Hearing%20MMB.pdf.

A similar hearing was held on May 2. My testimony for both can be found on the agencies website. Or you can read the transcript of the hearing here http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/May%2016%20Transcript.pdf

The Hearing: The request from the Department of Agriculture Agency asked this separate regulatory agency unique to our state to investigate, undertake, or recommend any measures that can address current market conditions in Pennsylvania. Two hearings have been held so far. I think we need more and one in each county and a individual letter sent to each dairy farmer to attend and say on record how this crisis has impacted them.

This three person board has the power granted to them to execute the legislative intent of the 1937 law called the Milk Marketing Law to establish reasonable trade practices, systems of production control, and regulate the production, the transportation, the disposal of, the manufacturing of, the processing of, the storage of, the distribution of, the delivery of, the handling of, the bailment of, the brokerage of, the consignment and purchase and sale of milk and milk products in this Commonwealth.

Given the preamble which was written to explain the justification and need for this law in 1937 it is necessary for we the consumers and producers of dairy to understand the crisis that was taking place at that time.

You see this law has not been updated, revised or repealed since then to any extent that any of us would say has kept up with the times. What then is its purpose? Conditions have certainly changed.

Here is the link to the Year Book of Agriculture. https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/IND50000139/PDF
The following quotation comes from page one.

“PROGRESS OF FARM RECOVERY. FOUR years ago American agriculture was in the depths of de-pression. Though farm commodity prices had dropped to nearly 8o percent below the pre-war average, the prices of the goods and services that farmers usually buy were at or above the pre-war level. This disparity was a cause of widespread agriculture ruin. Farm bankruptcies were at record heights, dispossessed farmers joined the urban unemployed,and farmers still struggling could not make ends meet. There was a tremendous surplus of farm products.”

While the next sentence about scarcity for consumers no longer applies in this global commerce we have today, the rest of the situation rings true today as it did then:

“Falling prices did not help them much, because their incomes were falling too as a result of declining trade and employment. The whole economic situation was out of balance.”. (1937 Year Book of Agriculture)

That is why I advocate for agriculture. This is once again the on the ground situation in our rural areas of Pennsylvania. Our farmers are in crisis and this law like so many others was created by the legislature in response to a crisis. It is not just dairy. The dairy crisis puts pressure on the entire production system as the farmers scramble to make income any way they can without adequate resources to do so.

Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the production of milk in this Commonwealth.

Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the distribution of milk in this Commonwealth.

Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the sale of milk in this Commonwealth.

I saw and heard people of this Commonwealth at this hearing plead for someone in government to help the dairy farmer who produces the milk cover their cost of production before any more are forced out due to the refusal of the market players to give a damn about the employees who work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. That income has to be enough to pay the operational costs to do business. That income has to pay enough to maintain the operation.

I must tell you though, I saw and heard the chairman of the board, an individual who has been on the board way to long, whose term expired three years ago, get very defensive to a woman who is an expert on the dairy market and the forces in play. She came to the hearing as requested to share her concerns, just like everyone else, just like I did and I like so many in attendence were shocked at the level of adversity directed at her. In fact I would go so far as to say I am sick and tired of this type of response from men in power directed at strong minded woman who have earned the expertise they bring to the discussion. http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/Bunting%20Comments.pdf

Update: Read the Letter to the Editor on page 16 of this issue of Farm Shine.http://www.farmshine.net/fso/05-25-18/index.html#) to get a full sense of the appalling behavior that I witnessed at this, the first hearing I’ve ever attended.

………Everyone is trying to help on the dairy crisis marketing issue, there is no need to get so defensive.

Now, as to the real issue at hand that I want your help with:

I am seeing and hearing two view points on this issue: We need a two tiered system of regulation and payment to address the two different roads that food such as milk and beef and eggs and pork and vegetables takes in this state on its way to the market place. Family farm operations are not factories. The regulations and laws that are being promulgated as a one shoe fits all approach to corporate food production are not working. The regulations and laws that were written to protect the family farm were not designed to regulate corporate farming.

The dairy farms need you the consumer to say enough is enough we don’t want the rest of them to die off. We need you to say you want your town, your counties locally grown food to be sold in a store in your town and county so that you can purchase it and put it on your plate.

Write your individual House of Representative and your Senator and your Governor and stay in touch with our Secretary of Agriculture. Plead with these men to do something to protect the remaining farmers left in your township, your county, this state.

Or if you would like, write to me and I will share your concerns and research, investigate and report on the dairy crisis. Melissa Bravo, Agriculture Advocate. Meadow Lake Farm Consulting Services P.O. Box 447, Lawrenceville, PA 16929. 814-574-4067.

PA Milk Market Board Hearing 2: Statutory Changes to Milk Market Law

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STATUTORY CHANGES TO MILK MARKET LAW
May 11, 2018
To: Board of Directors, PA Milk Marketing Board, c/o deberly@pa.gov;
Submit electronically to: ra-pmmb@pa.gov
Suggestions on statutory changes to the Milk Marketing Law: In the short amount of time I have today, I submit the following examples for consideration and offer my services to the board to amend this law and support efforts to modify or appeal this law so that buyers are required to compensate PA dairy farmers at point of sale above the cost of production.
Sincerely, Melissa Bravo, M.S. Agronomy, B.S. Animal Science, CCA, http://agricultureadvocate.org/
Candidate, PA 68th District House of Representative Vacancy – Platform Dairy Crisis
_____________________________________________________________________

The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PAMMB) was established to create stability in the marketing of milk and to give dairy farmers in Pennsylvania a fair and equal opportunity to market their milk. In continuation of my suggestions from the Hearing on May 2, I propose the following statutory changes be made to the Milk Market Law.
Preamble:
Update the preamble to reflect that PA wants dairy to be its number one agriculture product, use to be the third greatest milk producing state in the Union but has since fallen to 6th place [and list the number of remaining operations by county as of the passing of this revised legislative act,] and in order to market PA dairy products the following legislative findings of fact with respect thereto are hereby made:
a. WHEREAS, The production, sale and distribution of milk and certain milk products produced on dairy farms in this Commonwealth are of the utmost importance to the economy and sustainability of the rural communities of her 67 counties,
b. WHEREAS, serious economic conditions are increasing the cost of production to the dairy farm at the same time consumer consumption has continued to trend down, and monopolistic movement in the dealer and processing industry subjects the owner of the milk to fraud and loss of equity and capital,
c. WHEREAS, It is necessary to preserve and promote the strength and vigor of the inhabitants of this Commonwealth, to protect the public health and welfare, and to prevent fraud and imposition upon consumers and products by continuing to treat the marketing, production, transportation, manufacture, processing, storage, distribution, and sale of milk in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a business affecting the public health and affected with the public interest,
1. Modernize the health benefits of milk as suggested in my previous testimony.
2. Modernize this paragraph to reflect the actual cost to the dairyman, processor, manufacturer and regulator so that consumers are aware of the true cost of producing unadulterated PA whole raw milk, whole pasteurized milk with Vitamin D added, etc.…
3. Modernize this paragraph to reflect the current monopoly of the market. Amend to include the need for quota when surplus exceeds demand; the need for increase in production when demand exceeds availability; and how the cost or profit of doing so creates an unfair pricing practice under the current structure.
4. Modernize this paragraph to reflect production costs, marketing costs, transportation costs, regulatory costs, export cost. Amend to include a need to provide the producing dairy farm a guaranteed point of sale payment of the raw milk value (as is in the bulk tank) based on the use of modern testing procedures to determine its value. Weigh and component test at the beginning, middle and end of the bulk tank, transfer to the tanker at which the point of sale transaction for the raw product is complete transferring control of the raw product from the producer to the hauler. Amend to require the raw milk payment be received by the dairy farm within three business days and any premiums calculated or offered be received shortly thereafter. (In other words, make this more like the gas law – arm length transaction with a minimum raw milk value payment)
§101. Legislative purpose
In the exercise of the police power of the Commonwealth, and it’s capacity to regulate behavior and enforce order within their territory for the betterment of the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of their inhabitants, it is hereby declared that the marketing of the production, transportation, manufacture, processing, storage, distribution, and sale of milk in the Commonwealth is a business affecting the public health and affected with a public interest, and it is hereby declared that this act shall be and is hereby enacted for the purpose of regulating, and controlling and marketing the milk industry in this Commonwealth, for the protection of the public health and welfare and for the prevention of fraud especially the practice of accepting raw product from the dairy farm without just compensation for the cost of production.
I don’t have enough time to comment on the full law on such notice, but if you would like me to continue making suggestions on the remainder of the law or work with the dairy farmers in this Commonwealth to craft a law that suits their best interests, please give me a call.
MB. 5/10/2018 – 6:20 pm.

Dairy Crisis Hearing Comments, PA Milk Market Board, May 2nd, 2018

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DAIRY MATTERS! DRINK WHOLE MILK AGAIN
April 29, 2018
To: Board of Directors, PA Milk Marketing Board, c/o deberly@pa.gov
Regarding: Actions that can be taken by the board without statutory changes to the Milk Marketing Law I submit the following for consideration,
Sincerely, Melissa Bravo, M.S. Agronomy, B.S. Animal Science, CCA, http://agricultureadvocate.org/
Candidate, PA 68th District House of Representative Vacancy – Platform Dairy Crisis
_____________________________________________________________________
Preamble: The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PAMMB) was established to create stability in the marketing of milk and to give dairy farmers in Pennsylvania a fair and equal opportunity to market their milk. I would ask the board to give due consideration to the following facts and my query.
 Do you acknowledge raw milk is the fluid that a PA farmer takes from a cow’s lacteal secretions*?
 Do you acknowledge raw milk is composed of four major components: water, fat, protein and lactose; and contains minor components such as minerals, enzymes, vitamins and dissolved gases*? Data Source https://dairyextension.foodscience.cornell.edu/sites/dairyextension.foodscience.cornell.edu/files/shared/Composition%20of%20Milk.pdf
 Do you acknowledge that by definition ‘whole milk’ contains all of the components of raw milk*?
 Do you acknowledge that pasteurization is the process of heating ‘whole milk’ or ‘raw milk’ to 141 degrees F for 30 minutes; or 161 degrees F for 15 seconds; or 191 degrees F for 1 second; or 204 degrees F for half a second; or 212 degrees F for one tenth of a second*?
 Do you acknowledge that ultra-pasteurization is the process of heating ‘whole milk’ or ‘raw milk’ to 280 degrees F for at least 2 seconds*? *Data Source: Cornell Legal Institute: 21 CFR 133.3 – Definitions.
 Do you acknowledge that there are at least 1.6 million children enrolled in PA K-12 schools? Data Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Data Quality
 Do you acknowledge that there are no more than 7,000 producing dairies left in Pennsylvania?
If you answered yes to all of the above questions, then I respectfully submit Pennsylvania farmers have the legal right to expect the PAMMB market their ‘whole pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized milk’ in 8 ounce containers to school districts where they pay school taxes, regardless of any federal program that pertains to dairy products. I would further submit each Pennsylvania dairy farm has the right to pay to have their personal logo added to the 8 ounce servings to market their product.
Given that position, and in light of this dairy crisis where every dollar returned to the PA farmer every month helps avoid bankruptcy, does the PA Milk Market Board have the authority to pitch a Dairy Matters! Drink Whole Milk Again marketing campaign to PA school district boards for the 2018-2019 school year with the understanding in that signed contract that all of the estimated $1.6 million dollars net return per day per child from competitively priced (compare to $2.00 for an 8 ounce of same caloric content energy drink) sale of ‘whole milk’ will be divided equally among the 7,000 Pennsylvania dairy producers that remain in PA?

Questions and Comments from the Grange Debate

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Last night we had the opportunity to take questions from those who attended the candidate debate hosted by the Sebring Grange in Southern Tioga County. If you would like to know more about this one hundred and twenty five year old landmark building whose membership organized in 1891 please take time to read the research compiled by Joyce Tice at https://www.joycetice.com/organize/hms05rs.htm.

Here is my recap on last night.

* Responsible citizenship and the education of our young people on the morals and values of our culture are important to us. How do we know what your values are as our state representative candidate.

I can’t tell you how much it means to all of us to hear time and again as we have debated how proud our community is to have the four of us representing the issues and concerns of the 68th District in this election process. Family values, integrity and knowing right from wrong are woven into the very fabric of our characters and we all have the same common denominator: We were raised on a farm,our family and friends were raised on farms, our neighbors and teachers were raised on farms. Everyone who has touched our lives has earned a living from farming or have owned or still own land that was first tilled centuries ago by an immigrant who came here to be free and to have the God Given and Constitutional Right to better their situation in life through hard work and an honest endeavor.

* What is your position on the state budget and the state pension.

Carrie Heath took the lead in the debate on the state pension from her experience as a vested teacher and I followed up with my own knowledge from a subcontractor’s view working in Harrisburg for eight year’s of how the entrenchment of life time bureaucrats serving administration after administration only cements the disparity between what state employees feel entitled too and what the rest of us can afford to pay 80,000 people to provide public services to 12 million Pennsylvanians. State employees are afforded an unequal amount of job security and financial protection compared to the those of us who are self-employed producing the food that feeds this nation. Where is our security, our buffer, our bailout when we are in need. Where is the help for the dairy crisis right now as we speak?

Property tax payees provide, by some reports, upwards of 17% of the revenue to the state (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxvox/sorry-pennsylvania-voters-your-property-tax-isnt-going-anywhere) but a whopping 75% of the local school district bill. I feel strongly that local and state public service compensation should be no more than than the median income of the constituents paying your salary. Term limits and earn your pay apply. There are other ways to reward public service without locking in a increasing value life time monetary pension. We need a system that is dynamic and rises and falls with the per capita income and economic circumstances under consideration. How we broaden that mind set and change the direction of the spending problem in Harrisburg starts with commitment, a desire and compassion to advocate for change and a vision on how to build that road. I have that vision.

* The lack of reliable communication services here is increasingly a burden. How can you help address the disrepair of our utility infrastructure.

We are all in agreement that our internet capacity and land line phone service infrastructure is deplorable. Demanding competition in the local market and penalties for utility providers who do not respond, upgrade or provide reliable service is being addressed by the legislatures now. Having a legislature who lives in the void between the valleys and mountains we call our home is a strong motivator to communicating loud and clear on this issue – don’t you think? Surcharges and line delivery fees should come with a mandated requirement that services were received.


* What is your position on legislation that would change state law that would legalized big game hunting on Sundays?

So we all more or less said, we are opposed to Sunday hunting for personal reasons, but as a state legislature we recognize that we have to listen to both sides of the discussion. So I took the time to talk about the emotional vs the economics of big game hunting in PA. I’ve hunted since I was a kid; I worked at Davis Sporting Goods all through high school and college selling hunting licenses; and I worked with Game Commission for eight years on many projects and regulations of interest to them and their license holders. Knowledge, experience and wisdom that is what I bring to the table. This question was about recreational enjoyment of public owned lands by absentee landowners vs private property owner rights to enjoy a day off, observe and respect their religious convictions on the seventh day. A gentleman from the floor also pointed out that as a father who works six days a week, he may only have Sunday to hunt with his son. However it is perfectly legal to shoot varmints and vermin on Sundays. So the real issue is big game.

How I see it is this, each vote counts and there are twelve million people in this state to be represented on this issue vs 940,000 licensed hunters(http://www.pgc.pa.gov/HuntTrap/LicensesandPermits/Pages/HuntingLicenseSalesReport.aspx.

Can we compromise? I am sure there are plenty of state owned properties or designated areas within those boundaries that are remote enough that hunters could go there to shoot big game on a Sunday if they were not lucky enough or dedicated enough to obtain one during the regular season hours. Let’s ask first. In fact we could take it a step further and identify one location that has too many deer and designate that as father and child Sunday hunting for those who want to develop that skill on the one day they have off from work.

Let’s ask first.

Would it not help matters if we could relax our hunting and fishing regulations and take advantage of the modernization of our weather technology and the recognition of the tourism dollars and state revenue dollars generated and work with Mother Nature instead of setting our start and end dates in stone?

Wouldn’t it have been great if Fish and Boat could have announced that opening day of the season was going to be 24 hours earlier this year due to the 80 degree forecast for Friday instead of the freezing wind driven blustery Saturday those of us who went out that day endured? What about that One Day Party Permit I asked Jon Arway for a few years ago? Such a great idea that one is still!

* Talk to us about the Opiod Epidemic here and the overall drug and alcohol crisis that has blown up in our two counties in the past eight years and the impact it has had; and will continue to have.

We all talked about the opiod crisis including a recovering addict in the audience who is the expert on this subject. We need to listen to her and to all those who are dealing with this and not opine from the point of view of an observer. This is a national policy change. Not a state legislative law – but we as a state can say – NO MORE. We can stop passing emotional responses that have no impact; simple resolutions that are just a way to justify going to work; and start exerting our right by active legislation to protect our citizens from harm.

I have farming clients who are raising their grandchildren and going bankrupt while they wait for the coroner to call and say their nightmare is finally gone. They and I have had this conversation many times. We have to talk about it in terms we understand so we can understand, if you understand what I mean…. So we equate this issue of drug injection overdose to being bitten by a rabid animal and being infected with the rabies virus. Life and death is a daily occurrence for those who farm. The emotional side of the coin does not change the facts. Being told your dog has rabies and has to be put down and your children and your family may have been exposed is no different an emotion than this issue. Inoculation,quarantine or euthanization are the only post injection choices we have with rabies. There is no cure for rabies once you are infected. It is that frickin serious. Preventing an outbreak and responding immediately is the only way to stop it. It is the same with foot and mouth disease, the plague, Ebola…I could go on and on…. my point is this: Why then I ask, do we not have the same fear of these new opiods on the streets? Who is behind this effort to exterminate us? Why has our response been so slow?

Bottom line, you cannot grow poppies here legally so you cannot make your own plant derived opiod. The government has made it the responsibility of the health care provider to make sure you do not abuse your opiod prescription. If addiction is inherent in any opiod pain killer than people should not be allowed to administer it to themselves, ever. Go to a registered clinic and be treated in house. It’s that simple.

I am a simple solution common sense person and I say what I am thinking – I don’t regurgitate what someone else told me to say – with age comes wisdom and the fortitude to stand on ones own merit.

The reality is, the illegal drugs on the streets are of a toxicity class unsafe for human consumption and they are man-made chemicals. Lumping them all under one term is not helping matters. These are not plant opiods from Papaver somniferum, regardless of what you are told. Not everyone is overdosing on pain pills, most people would not turn to needles if they could receive financial help for their chronic pain. Much of what we have now is a manufactured toxin designed to destroy. Etc. Etc. Etc. Scientists did this and we the people can say enough is enough, this is too deadly we have to stop.

Or maybe Pennsylvania needs some women, a woman down there to yell ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

The common denominator again among all of us in this race is this: We all have family or friends in this area who are suffering from the addiction pandemic here. The emotional and financial cost of this epidemic in our country is destroying us as a population, as a race of people. The source of this epidemic is not just poor choice. It is not just lack of moral character or low intelligence. The fact is our government allowed potent pharmaceutical manufactured synthetic drugs to be developed, rejected them as unsafe but made no requirement to destroy them. Those chemistries were then sold to the highest bidder. The end product is now pouring in from foreign countries who are in the business of making money from drug addiction. My ending comment, we have to stop creating weapons that serve no other purpose than to poisonous and render useless a Homo sapien.

The right to farm is the cornerstone we need to set to turn PA around. Then watch us build anew. Farmers are the foundation of this Commonwealth. Bring back pride in the one and you will see a return to normalcy.

* What is the one thing you want to accomplish in this position? Your single most reason for running?

My answer to this was unequivocal. I would amend the wording in the Clean Stream Law that erroneously linked and defined manure as raw sewage and I would strip DEP of the requirement to enforce the manure manual. DEP serves a purpose and they do it well. They excel at protecting the environment from industrial pollution. They suck at understanding farming though! They have no mandated requirement to use cow or common sense.

Remove this misguided interpretation of the law in the hands of an environmental agency. The sewage regulations and terminology of this law were never intended to apply to cattle manure and the power vested in DEP to over regulate farmers on this issue has caused undue hardship and financial and emotional stress at a time when the dairy market is collapsing. https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/025/chapter91/chap91toc.html

I am also a strong advocate for creating an AGRICULTURE PRODUCER PROTECTION AGENCY with the mandated responsibility to promote and protect the industry of farming as a market and above all the right to farm sustainable. I started working on this concept in 2012. There is no balance right now in our natural resource agencies and agriculture is a natural resource!

We who farm are over regulated and under paid. We have too many agencies and bureaus doing the same thing and no one is marketing and promoting what PA does best – we grow food. It is time we got serious about food security.

Agriculture production is Pennsylvania’s number one commodity. It is the core natural resource asset of our state as a geographic territory in North America and we have failed to protect it from our own over zealous environmental regulations. It is an imbalance that must be rectified. We can’t eat trees!

Vote for me and I will advocate for the farmer in you. Melissa Bravo, Write-In Candidate

Note: To see the discussion on vocational education see my next post please.

Debate Questions Answered: Tioga County Farm Bureau Debate April 18 2018

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Hi Everyone, below are the three minute answers to the questions posed by Farm Bureau at the recent debate. In particular note that for question four, I decided to respond with a poem I wrote in 2014 when EPA was fostering it’s first WOTUS ruling on us.

Question 1 – Gas Industry
The Marcellus-shale gas industry has brought jobs, growth and an economic boost to our area. 1a) We currently have an impact fee that has worked well and helped our local municipalities. 1b) The Governor wants a severance tax and 1c) Mineral owners want a fair royalty bill. What’s your position on these issues?

Melissa Bravo Responses

Question 1a: Unemployment Statistics:
Well, let’s look at that statement in hindsight. The unemployment rate in Tioga C. from ‘02 to ‘08 fluctuated like a heartbeat. See graph here: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/PATIOG7U

Our unemployment went between 8.7% in the dead of winter to 4.9% in the summer. In March of ‘09 it jumped way up to 12.9%, but by Jan. of ‘10 it had fallen back to 10.5%. Then it went up just to 8.8%. Its low that year did not go below 5.9%. Let’s call that the pre-fracking decade for comparison. [Range 4.9% – 12.9%]

Recap: January of 2010 it was 10.5%.
In January of 2011 it was 8.8%.
In January of 2012 it was 7.5%
In July of ‘12 it was back up to 8.9%.
In January of ‘13 it hit 10% again.
In January of ‘14 it was 8.8%.
In July of ’14 it was still at 7.3%
In Oct. of ’14 it dropped to 5.9%

2012, 2013 and 2014 are during the impact fee payouts, yet the unemployment numbers did not returned to the level of the pre gas time period. Well we think we know why right? That is because seasonal workers came here and pushed up our numbers – then they left. But I am not so sure that is an accurate assumption. Just look at our local residents, the lifetime family property owners who are our tax base. Our long standing census base workers have not unilaterally benefited sustainable from the impact fee or the Marcellus economic boost. Yes, the county’s operational capacity has grown, infrastructure has grown, but jobs have stymied, stagnated and in many cases just dried up.

In January of 2015 U.E was 7.2%.
In January of 2016 it was 7.8%.
In January of 2017 it was 7.3%.
In January of 2018 it was 7.0%.

So while Marcellus did bring a tremendous influx of dollars into our county, it just as quickly exited or has been stashed away. We still remain 2% points above the state average for unemployment and we only have 19K people employed in the county. The rest, some 23,000 people are not earning a reportable income, but all are dependent on municipal, county and state resources. The thing is neither of those employment figures accurately account for the labor costs on a farm. The contribution of your “family” to the operational cost of your farm and to the health of our economy is not properly accounted for or acknowledge in Harrisburg or Washington. These people now have no cash to pay their cost of living expenses: taxes; rent; auto insurance, car loan, phone, t.v., internet, food, medical, legal and child care expenses and yet at the same time who wants to go on welfare?

Citation: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment Rate in Tioga County, PA [PATIOG7URN], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/PATIOG7URN, April 18, 2018.
Citation: http://www.workstats.dli.pa.gov/Documents/County%20Profiles/Tioga%20County.pdf

Question 1b: Impact Fee has worked well and helped our local municipalities.
Question 1c: The Governor wants a severance tax

My response is the same as an earlier posting on this topic . I also would draw attention to the fact that the gas play has shifted to the southwestern corner of our state and it is there that the political battle will be fought in the 2018-2019 legislative session. The lobbying power of the gas companies on this issue will give you pause. We the people of this great State will have to fight for our rights and our convictions on this matter. Take the time to become informed, the future of Pennsylvania depends on it.

As to the question poised again by our county commissioner on what is my position on the one vs. the other. I do not have one. The impact fee funds dispersed in theory applies to 56 cities, 67 counties, and 2,562 municipal authorities. Before I would offer any position on this I would first want to poll these entities and compare the two proposals side by side. The annual PA State Association of Township Supervisors conference (http://psats.org/) would be the place to do this by resolution. I learned alot an an invited speaker at PSATS during my eight years writing and reviewing agriculture and environmental regulations and ordinances in Harrisburg. My suggestion: Ask PSAT’s to hold impact fee tutorials and severance tax tutorials and educate those who have the answers before you ask your legislature to vote one way or another.

That philosophy and approach also applies to the demise of the Act 13 and its regulatory authorities. I would have to meet with each and every municipality and see first what funds they received from Act 13; what they did with them; and then compare that to a severance tax proposal. But my job as state legislature is not limited to the best interests of these three counties. The whole state falls under these regulatory changes and I am the best qualified of the candidates here to review, comprehend and evaluate the complexity of this task with unbiased fairness. If the impact fee averages out to 5%, then how would a 5% severance tax equate?

Question 2 – Farm Economy
The farm economy is at an all-time low right now. Almost every sector of Agriculture is struggling with high input costs and low farm-gate prices for our products. The dairy industry is in what many are calling a dairy crisis, both with low milk prices and unstable markets for our milk. Please give us your thoughts and possible solutions in addressing this situation. Also, please include any thoughts you may have about the PMMB (PA Milk Marketing Board)?

My response: A farms income regardless of how it is reported employees more than one individual. There are at least if not more than 1,000 farm operations in this county who are losing income due to the dairy crisis. Dairy producers rent ground from their neighbors; they buy inputs from their neighbors. We are all “overwhelmed by personal and financial issues.” See my earlier postings on how I want to bring back agriculture markets to this region. As for the PMMB. I mentioned that side by side this 1929 law compared to the 2012 Impact Fee law is a good example of what a clean well written simple law can be; and what a monster of legalize crafted by too many special interest group views can become. Food for thought.

However, on this question about PMMB: I concur 100% with the Department of Agriculture’s recent request to the PMMB dated April 4, 2018. Please take the time to read the well written Petition for Hearing submitted by Secretary Redding. It can be found at on the PA Milk Marketing Board’s website or by this link at http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Documents/Petition%20for%20Hearing%20MMB,%204-4-18.pdf. Let’s give them a chance to use their legislative power to help our dairy farmers before it is too late for all of us.

Question 3 – Regulatory Reform
Bureaucracy and regulatory oversight is rampant in this country. This is apparent at a farm level. Farmers were the world’s first conservationists so we understand and appreciate the need and reason for mindful and protective measures for our natural resources. However, we need common sense regulations and permitting based on facts and science, not on emotions. What steps will you take to address regulatory reform and legislative oversight on these agency’s if you are elected?

You can find my answers to this topic throughout my campaign, my platform and my posts. To sum it up though in my own words from my heart, listen to the poem I wrote in August of 2014 that I shared with my family of farmers, my friends in agriculture and colleagues on the campaign trail on this night and also to the community members who came out to support all of us.

Closing comments by the candidates! Potter Tioga Pa Farm Bureau Dennis Weaver Owlett for PA Rep Carrie Heath for Pennsylvania's 68th District Melissa Bravo

Posted by Bradford/Sullivan County PA Farm Bureau on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tax Time: What is an acre of farmland generated income worth?

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Would you agree rural PA?
1. It takes an acre of income to pay your rent or mortgage
2. It takes an acre of income to have a vehicle
3. It takes an acre of income to maintain a vehicle
4. It takes an acre of income to have a phone/t.v/internet
5. It takes an acre of income to pay for mandated health care or urgent care
6. It takes an acre of income to cloth/fund child’s education
7. It takes an acre of income to heat/cool your house
8. It takes an acre of income to set aside for an emergency
9. It takes an acre of income to set aside for a vacation
10. It takes an acre of income to start planning for a wedding

That’s ten acres and we haven’t even gotten through the essentials let alone the maintenance. At least we can grow our own food, draw our own water, heat our homes with our generated fuels. This is how a farmer begins his financial planning and how he evaluates it at tax time.

The right to farm matters! Advocating for sustainable farm income in rural Pennsylvania.

Upcoming Agriculture Topic Debates for the 68th District Candidates

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Here are the upcoming public candidate forums I have been invited too as the Republican write-in Candidate for the Primary and Special Election here in Tioga, Bradford and Potter Counties. If you would like to host a meet and great just let me know.

MILK MATTERS: Northeast Bradford Farm Forum on the Dairy Crisis

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April4, 2018

Last night I and six other candidates running for state and federal public office were given the opportunity to listen to the concerns of the farming community from Bradford County. Nine pages of notes later, I would like to pass along to you what I heard. As an advocate for agriculture it is essential that we listen, take notes and respond with a solution that works.

Well that is what I do and I do it well.

Here are my notes and also my thoughts intermingled as I heard these questions being asked.

* A fella shared that he started his career in the Harrisburg area working for the Harrisburg Dairy. He recalls the day a major soda manufacturer came into town and for the first time put their beverage machines into stores, schools, hospitals, public places. He recalls how the very same marketing movement prevented, stopped, halted the sale of milk in those very same locations. His question to the PA candidates is this: Why can’t Pennsylvania market milk?

* A woman actively involved in her own families’ dairy operation asked the farmers in the room: What can you do in the community to help consumers understand what is in Milk? Consumers need to be given truthful advertising about the quality and nutritional value of whole milk in their daily food intake. How can we get this turned around so that we are advertising locally? Why is the state not helping us do this? Isn’t agriculture our number one industry?

* A farmer wanted to know how anyone can allow a non-dairy product made from the juices of a plant be sold in the dairy aisle and labeled as milk?

I took the liberty of answering that question immediately. If our legislature can sit back and allow the Clean Stream Law to continue to regulate manure and call it sewage by the mere fault of a poorly worded definition in the way the law was written; and instead of changing that definition when a lawsuit forced the state to enforce the manure manual law that is subjecting hundreds of farmers to over regulation by our state Department of Environmental Protection, then why can’t we, as in the Pennsylvania legislature, pass a regulation that MILK by definition on any labeled product for sale can only be called MILK if it is the fluid that comes out of a mammary gland. These are the ‘fixes’ farmers want and need and noone is listening except me. I want to fix this mess!

It’s that simple folks. Almond Milk is not milk. Soy-Milk is not milk. When you squeeze the sap out of a milkweed plant do you drink it? Where is Pennsylvania’s pride in agriculture? Where is the Department of Agriculture Markets, the AGRICULTURE PRODUCER PROTECTION AGENCY legislatively tasked to protect and market Commonwealth grown food and fiber? Oh that is right, we don’t have one. I would create one. That I would. I would go one step farther and ask Pennsylvania: Why do we have two government agencies so focused on shock and awe consumer protection that they are scaring people into thinking raw food grown in Pa must be unfit for consumption and the mere act of growing food is poisoning our planet? For Christ sakes people, we are an agrarian society. We eat food! Who is poisoning who here?

* A Columbia X Roads farmer explained very clearly to the audience and to the panel of prospective politicians what it means to be trapped beneath the outdated trading system of the Federal Milk Market Orders. The fact that all Class I fluid milk in the Northeast is pooled and no matter how you cut the check, the local producer is being shafted out of a fair and equitable payment because of the transportation, distribution and processing location loopholes in the antiquated methodology of how the Federal Milk Market Order premiums are allocated is well known. All the co-ops have to do is haul the milk across state lines to another Federal Order market and they can manipulate the market price paid to the producer where it originated. Why hasn’t this been stopped to stabilize farmer income?

* More than one farmer pointed out the simple fact that the federal government could immediately reverse the price slide for whole milk by canceling all fat-free school lunch milk policies and require and allow local school districts to utilize locally sourced whole milk, butter, cream and cheese. A win win for everyone. Why is this not being addressed?

* A farmer pleaded to the producers in the room that the only way any of us of this size are going to get a decent price for our product is to see a 20% reduction in production and a quota of some kind.

I want to add to that discussion: I keep hearing a two way split on this quota discussion. We have two industries now. A BIG one and a smaller one. How is that any different than a stallion and a filly in a million dollar purse horse race? Those horses are handicapped so that all have a fair and equitable chance to win without killing the horse or its rider. We have to address the overproduction of milk for the sake of greed alone. As a cattle producer who understands the limits of genetics and natural production and a natural scientist who is opposed to genetically ramping up a species for the sake of intellectual property rights, I say it is not okay to maximize production to the point that we are rewarding milking a cow to death in two and a half years regardless the explanation given (http://www.milkproduction.com/Library/Editorial-articles/The-productive-lifetime-of-the-cow/)

To stabilize this mess we are in, I say cap production where it fits for progressive producers and also small family herd operations and pay a premium for healthy long living good quality cows, healthy farmsteads and healthy sustainable farming families. How can that go wrong?

* A farmer pointed out that the farm bill needs to be a bill just about farming. It has to care that we care about farming. We want to milk. They want to grow crops. I want to consult for both! Equalize and recognize our separate values and give us a level playing field so we can get back to doing what we do best – we farm. Bottom line – get the consumer protection and assistance out of the farm bill and call it something else. Farming assistance and farming programs from the federal government need to be just about production agriculture. It’s getting too complicated!

* A farmer returned to the USDA policies thread to talk about the fact that USDA sets the national dietary standards every five years. This again is the standard that schools wanting federal dollars must follow. Change the standards to recognize the reality that unadulterated fresh raw milk or pasteurized fresh milk straight from the cow is a healthy food product to consume. Allow producers who holistically and naturally produce milk from products sourced from their own land earn a living selling a quality food product.

* A farmer asked why the federal and state government are not advocating for multiple small family owned agriculture operations? I will expand on that thread. It is a grave concern of many, including my own that our federal officials are so far removed from the reality of our food production system they do not see the biosecurity risks of mega colossal farm operations. They do not see that concentrating millions of heads of cattle in one location under one management corporation is a national security risk as well as an economic and natural disaster waiting to happen. A trifecta of unbelievable catastrophe. Am I seriously the only one in the room who has this concern over the monopoly and merger of our dairy operations, processing and packaging into one location?

* A farmer demanded to know where the .15 cent a cwt marketing dollars are going and how is the American Dairy Association using those funds to promote our product? Whose product are they marketing? What national advertisement campaign has been unveiled to showcase Pennsylvania made milk? Who is accountable? I would ask: Just what does the legislated PA Milk Marketing Board do anyway, or do they exist solely for the benefit of the processor?

* A farmer pointed out that even if they want to, the consumer cannot buy our product. I agree. Why is the state and the federal government not actively creating retail produce, meat, dairy product hubs in our communities so our neighbors,friends and family members can support our livelihood? This is why I am running for office. This is what will save our rural towns, here in this district not to mention elsewhere. We have to fund markets where we can sell and purchase whole locally grown foods.

* A farmer wanted to say this to you all: This is still our industry. Make Milk Great Again is one slogan lauded in the room! I say this: Milk Matters! Make that the new slogan. In fact, make them both the new market slogan. Make Milk Matter. Make Milk Great Again!

* A farmer passionately shared that all of us who know the truth want the truth shared, told and validated. I would expand upon that: Whole milk tastes great! Whole cream is the best thing that ever hit a cup of coffee this side of paradise. When was the last time you tasted the difference? One percent and fat-free milk is a by-product that the processing industry has duped you into believing is healthier so they can make more profit from you while lowering their payments to us! Truth in labeling is the answer.

* What I would have asked: I want to know when the Federal Government and each State is going to reinstate the Federal Dairy Commissioner position whose sole job is to investigate and act upon the creation and power of monopolies in the dairy market sector and reassess how the federal milk market order is calculated based on the traded price of butter and come up with a new way of marketing and pricing milk.

Transparency is the answer.

Vote for me for the Primary, the Special Election, and the General Election. Write my name in MELISSA BRAVO. It’s not about party politics. This is about our livelihood and that is why I am running for the 68th District House of Representative vacancy in Pennsylvania.

– Written by Melissa Bravo.