Pa. Farm Bureau honors leaders

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HERSHEY, Pa. – Pennsylvania Farm Bureau presented its Distinguished Service to Agriculture award to Samuel Hayes Jr., Pennsylvania’s secretary of agriculture, at the organization’s annual meeting Nov. 17-19.

Hayes for his decades of dedication and commitment to agriculture.

“Sam has served his country for over 30 years, first in the U.S. Army as a veteran of the Vietnam War where he received the bronze star, in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a lawmaker and legislative leader for 22 years and most recently, as Pennsylvania’s secretary of agriculture,” said Guy Donaldson, Farm Bureau president.

“A native of Huntingdon County, Sam was nominated by three counties for this award, which shows the influence he has across this commonwealth,” Donaldson said.

Young achievement. Matthew and Barbara Balliet of Luzerne County were named winners of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement award.

Starting in 1998 with the purchase of a rundown farm in a neighboring county, Matthew Balliet now single-handedly operates a 500-acre cash grain enterprise.

He grows corn and soybeans, plus some hay and oats for a small herd of custom-raised beef cattle.

Having no equipment when he started, over the years Balliet has purchased or customized a complete line of planters, drills, tillage equipment and trucks.

Cropping on the farm is now 100 percent no-till.

He converted a potato storage building into a maintenance and equipment repair shed, and added an on-farm grain storage and dryer system.

Following last year’s drought, Balliet installed two center-pivot irrigation systems which can cover about one-third of the corn acreage at the home farm.

Balliet has served on the county Farm Bureau board of directors, chairs the state legislative committee, serves as its national legislative spokesman, is the fire chief of the Butler Township Fire Department and is on the county’s Agricultural Land Preservation Board.

Young meet. Dale Heagy of Lebanon County was named the winner of the Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet.

Young excellence. In addition, Andrea Semmel of Lehigh County was judged the winner of the Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Ag award. She was one of three finalists who competed in the competition during the annual meeting.

The award recognizes active young agriculture professionals who are not farm owners.

Semmel is employed full time at the family’s registered Holstein and Brown Swiss dairy farm in Schnecksville.

She is past chair of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s young farmer and ranchers committee and is currently an ex-officio member.

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