Pa. FB salutes legislator who’s back on the farm; calls for biofuels boost

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HERSHEY, Pa. – Former state representative Paul Semmel of Lehigh County received the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s 2007 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award during the farm organization’s annual meeting in Hershey.
“I believe it’s a case of people recognizing a lot of the little things we accomplished that added up over the years during which I held public office,” Semmel said.
Semmel served in the state House of Representatives for 24 years and earlier in his career was a school teacher for 15 years.
Since leaving the state legislature, Semmel has returned to his farm in Schnecksville, where he and his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, Andrea Semmel-Lazarus, operate a 225-cow dairy.
Key legislator. Presenting the award, Pa. Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer said Semmel worked for changes that benefited the public and the agricultural community.
He was the original sponsor of legislation to strengthen liability protections for farmers and other landowners who allow hunters on their property. “The legislation, a 2007 PFB priority, was signed into law in June,” Shaffer said.
Semmel also played a key role in the enactment of an Egg Storage Law, an updated Pennsylvania Seeds Law and a law that helps fund 911 services and ambulances in counties across the state.
Call for action. During his annual address at the annual meeting, Shaffer called on the state General Assembly to act on Gov. Edward Rendell’s Penn Security Fuels legislative initiative.
“Pennsylvania agriculture is uniquely positioned to substantially contribute to energy solutions,” Shaffer said.
The Farm Bureau is calling on lawmakers to take action on House Bill 1202, which would require all diesel fuel sold in Pennsylvania to contain at least 2 percent biodiesel when in-state biodiesel production reaches 30 million gallons.
The legislation would also require all gasoline sold in Pennsylvania to contain at least 10 percent ethanol one year after the time that in-state ethanol production volume reaches 200 million gallons.
“Farm Bureau members have been saying full speed ahead with the development of alternative fuels,” added Shaffer. “We should concentrate on increasing the income and net profit for the producers of all crops and commodities instead of focusing on short-term up-and-down farm input costs.”
Young farmer award. Jim and Rachel Shenk of Juniata County won the Pa. Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award.
The Shenks operate JimRay Farms, a custom square-bale haymaking and land management business. JimRay Farms also offers hay and straw brokering services and custom manure spreading.
In addition to custom work, Jim rents land for his own use, raising organic and chemical-free hay. Rachel operates a separate bookkeeping business and also manages the accounting for the farm operations.
The Shenks will receive $500 cash from Dodge, use of a tractor from Case IH, a financial planning scholarship from AgChoice Farm Credit, plus registration and lodging at American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2008 YF&R Leadership Conference in Baltimore.
The Shenks will also travel to New Orleans to compete for national honors Jan. 13-16.
Other finalists for the award included Dale and Tracy Heagy of Jonestown, Lebanon County; and Matthew and Jaclyn Matter of Millerstown, Juniata County.
Another Juniata winner. Nathan Meiser, Juniata County, won the state discussion meet, defeating five other participants. Meiser is a consulting forester from Port Royal.
Meiser receives a $500 cash award from Dodge, $250 worth of coupons from Choice Hotels, lodging and registration for the leadership conference in Baltimore and an expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in New Orleans in January.

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