All eyes were on U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey today at the 96th annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
It didn’t help a swarm of media and a contingent trailed the Republican senator as he walked through the crowded farm show Food Court.
“What in good gravy are we getting into?” mumbled one young woman. “Looks like someone from the Senate,” said another.
Toomey made a beeline to the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association booth for none other than an obligatory farm show milkshake. For the record, he prefers chocolate.
“Thank you very much. This is terrific. Great stuff,” Toomey told the workers in the booth.
He also sampled a roast beef sandwich at the Pennsylvania Livestock Association booth, posed for pictures with the Pennsylvania Honey Queen and walked through the “Today’s Farm” exhibit with a small barn filled with baby pigs, chickens and cows.
But Toomey’s stomp through the dusty, packed Farm Show complex was not just about shaking hands, sipping shakes and fawning over baby pigs.
He had a message to deliver to farmers as part of his public service campaign called “Had Enough?” It’s aimed at asking Pennsylvanians to share with him via emails or phone calls examples of government over-regulation.
He said farming is a vitally important industry in Pennsylvania, one that should not be over-regulated by the current administration and agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Labor.
“We should not be making life on the farm more difficult,” Toomey said.
Even though farmers are already doing their part to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, the EPA is considering harsher regulations targeting runoff and stream management, Toomey said. He said he is concerned the methodology the EPA is proposing will impose even more hardships on farmers.
The EPA has proposed an ambitious water restoration project. Farmers in states in the bay’s watershed — Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and New York — have been clashing with the agency over its plans.
“The EPA is greatly over reaching its boundaries, making it miserable for us to be competitive,” farmer Harold Shaulis said.
He owns a 360-acre dairy farm with 120 cows in Somerset County. His farm is 10 miles from the Chesapeake Bay watershed line. So close, Shaulis said he fears the EPA soon will target his farm.
He said he believes in clean water and following the appropriate farming practices but said the EPA is taking an unrealistic approach.
“The EPA doesn’t need to regulate mud puddles in my backyard,” Shaulis said.
Toomey said he has written letters to the EPA and has talked with colleagues about the proposals. In addition, the senator said he opposes regulations being proposed by the Department of Labor that would limit work done by children on farms. The regulations include limiting the age at which children can ride tractors or work in grain silos.
He said altering those laws would change the dynamics of family farming.
“I understand they are trying to protect the kids but being in a big farming family, it is a learning experience,” said Zack Nell, a 23-year-old dairy farmer from Gettysburg.
Most of the kids raised on farms grow up to be honest people who continue a lifelong love of farming, he said.
“There are so many regulations you can’t live by them all,” said Harry Thompson.
He co-owns Fountain Farm dairy farm in Dickinson Township. He said a lot of farmers are losing support both on a local and national level.
The 85-year old added: “The nonfarming people are setting regulations. We’re out- numbered.”