SALEM, Ohio — If your plans include going to the Hookstown Fair to view livestock raised by youth, you might be disappointed this year. The Beaver County Stockman’s Club members have renounced their 4-H affiliation and will not be displaying their livestock at the fair this year.
In 2014, there were 40 4-H’ers in the Beaver County Stockman’s Club, the primary club showing at Hookstown, and the market livestock sale totaled $148,259.
Mike Allison, Beaver County Stockman’s Club treasurer, didn’t want to get into specifics, but said Penn State Extension made changes to rules governing showing livestock at fairs, and club advisers felt the changes did not benefit youth. The rule changes were introduced in October 2014.
Penn State Extension officials, however, say the goal was not to make new rules in Beaver County, but to bring the rules in western Pennsylvania 4-H programs to the same standard as those across the state.
Beaver County 4-H educator Cynthia Searight did not return Farm and Dairy’s phone calls and instead referred calls to the state office. Chuck Gill, Penn State public relations specialist in State College, said the changes implemented were designed to standardize rules across all 11 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania. He said one of the rule changes limits the number of livestock projects a youth can take in a single year to four animals, something both Beaver County clubs objected to. Penn State did waive the rules for this year and said each youth could take additional animals.
Allison said the changes were introduced after the youth had already purchased their market steer projects, which added to their club’s frustration. Gill said the rules were drafted by a subcommittee of a regional youth development advisory committee and then approved by the youth development advisory committee before they were rolled out to the public.
Soon after the rules were announced, the clubs each received a memorandum of understanding to sign. In Pennsylvania, each 4-H club has to be chartered and each club has to have a signed memorandum of understanding. Gill said the livestock clubs at both Big Knob and Hookstown refused to sign the memorandum last fall and, at that point, the clubs ceased to be affiliated with 4-H.
“We respect their decision,” said Gill.
Now, as independent youth organizations, the Stockman’s Club and the Big Knob livestock club are both are seeking 501(c)(3) nonprofit incorporated status.
Chafing at commission
The amount of commission charged to the youth when they sell their animal at the livestock sale also became a hot issue, according to both Hookstown and Big Knob Grange fair board presidents. Allison would not comment on it.
Hookstown Fair board chairman Jim Scott said the Beaver County 4-H program commission taken will be 1 percent higher than in the past.
According to the Penn State Beaver County Junior Livestock Rules for 2015, a total of 5.5 percent will be deducted from the sale price of an animal before the youth is paid. A total of 4.5 percent will be used to help defray show and sales expenses. The rules also state the sale committee reserves the right to alter this commission as necessary to cover sale expenses. In addition, a 1 percent charge will also be deducted from the animal sale price to provide money for 4-H and FFA scholarship funds.
“It’s all about the money,” said Scott.
He added that another source of contention was that a junior fair livestock committee would be running the sale, and not the Beaver County Stockman’s Club.
In Lawrence County, the commission this year is 5 percent. The commission proceeds pay for the show, sale and educational needs, such as sending livestock members to camp or hosting livestock educational events, but not shows. The funds are also used to invest in livestock facilities. For example, the funds have meant $5,000 was put toward sheep and goat pens this year and $5,000 toward beef barn improvements.
According to the Washington County Penn State Extension office, the junior fair livestock sale does not decide the commission percentage until after the sale, so the numbers for 2015 are not yet available. Washington County does charge a commission percentage to fund operational costs such as tags, advertising, show and sale supplies, exhibitor photographs (which are given to the buyers) and other costs.
In 2014, the Washington County Livestock sale took 1.54 percent out of the steers and 4 percent for other species (hogs, lambs, goats and rabbits).
Fair boards involved
Scott, Hookstown Fair board chairman, said when the Stockman’s Club decided it didn’t want to be involved in 4-H, the fair board then had to vote, whether or not to support a 4-H presence at the fair. Eleven members voted to continue to support 4-H and one person abstained from the vote. The vote meant the stockman’s club had to find a different location for its show and sale because it couldn’t be held as part of the Hookstown Fair.
Scott said the entire situation has frustrated the fair board.
“The Stockman’s Club just doesn’t want to follow rules. They can’t be in charge, that’s why there is a fair board,” said Scott.
Scott said there will still be a 4-H livestock sale Aug. 28, but the Beaver County Stockman’s Club will not be a part of it and the Hookstown sale will instead feature only market rabbits this year.
Meanwhile, the market livestock show and sale will go on at the Big Knob Grange Fair, also in Beaver County. Big Knob Fair Chairman Bill Steel said the board voted to support the youth who show at their fair, to ensure the livestock program continues.
“We agreed we would support the kids, community and the parents to keep the program running,” said Steel.
Steel, a former president of the Beaver County Penn State Extension advisory committee, was at the October meeting when the new rules were introduced.
He said the rules, as presented to the club members, were created without input from the clubs or fair boards. He said members asked if there was room for compromise, or a delay in implementing the rules for a year, but other than the waiver to allow a total of four livestock projects per youth, no changes were allowed. Steel said many youth had already purchased their steer projects.
“We stood behind our leaders and kids and will do what needs to be done in order for this sale to happen at Big Knob,” said Steel.
Jumping county lines
There hasn’t been a big jump from Beaver County 4-H’ers to show in Lawrence County, but that doesn’t mean they can’t show there.
Bryan Dickinson, Lawrence County Penn State Extension educator, said each county develops its own set of rules in regards to 4-H clubs, and every year they are reviewed in every county. He added there weren’t any big rule changes in 2014 in Lawrence County. He said youth can’t complete the same project in two counties, but youth can be involved in 4-H in two counties. For example, there is a 4-H’er who shows horses in Mercer County, but displays livestock in Lawrence County. He said there are 4-H’ers involved in Lawrence County 4-H clubs from Butler, Lawrence, Mercer and even Ohio.
Dickinson said there are different reasons for youth wanting to show in Lawrence County over their home counties. For example, he said, there are no poultry clubs in Lawrence County (even in years when the avian bird flu isn’t a concern), so if a youth wants to take a poultry project, they are guided to counties with a poultry or livestock club that shows poultry. Similarly, there is a dog club in Lawrence but not in Beaver or Butler counties, and if a dog enthusiast from Beaver or Butler wants to participate, they are welcome to join a Lawrence County club.
“The goal, no matter what, is to encourage as many youth as possible to be in 4-H,” Dickinson said.
Allison said the club is going through some changes, “but we’re happy about the direction we’re headed.”
The Stockman’s Club plans to hold a roundup and sale in August, but no specifics were available.
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