SALISBURY, Pa. – Like many other farmers in Somerset County, Larry Cogan was thrilled to learn that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $65 billion in funding to improve broadband Internet reliability in rural areas. from the United States.
Cogan is forced to rely on the only internet service available on his Jenner Township farm, a satellite service he lost for three full weeks earlier this summer after a storm flooded his rooftop satellite dish, he said.
“It was like going back to the Stone Age,” he said. “When you don’t have (quick and reliable) options, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
That’s one reason Cogan and others at the Somerset County Farm Bureau said Friday that their region and the state of Pennsylvania can’t take their foot off the gas when it comes to finding creative ways to expand internet service. .
Cogan, who is also a member of the state Farm Bureau, met with other farmers Friday at the Tall Pines Distillery to discuss issues facing their industry.
Members of the office were joined by state officials who are working to address many of those issues, including supply chain concerns, sustainability and mental health support for farmers often overwhelmed by the daunting task. to keep its multi-generational operations prosperous.
The group included state Reps. Carl Walker Metzgar, R-Somerset, and Leslie Rossi, R-Westmoreland, and state Sen. Patrick Stefano, R-Fayette, whose districts cover parts of the county, as well as the director of the Rural Development Council. , Mark Critz, former congressman from District 12.
Regarding broadband, Cogan noted that farmers in the region are still waiting to see the harvest from the infrastructure bill’s rural improvements, noting that much of it is still ongoing.
“But there’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution to this,” he added.
Pennsylvania’s terrain is covered in hills, mountains, and ridges, making it difficult to connect high-speed Internet to people who live in some of the most rural areas of the state.
Somerset County Commissioners are working with other counties in the southern Alleghenies to develop a multi-county wireless backbone that providers can leverage to offer service.
“It’s going to take a multi-pronged approach,” Cogan said, and probably a combination of public and private partnerships, he added, to make a difference.
To help increase demand for Somerset County dairy products, the group also discussed state legislation that would allow schools across the country to once again offer whole milk to students through the federal lunch program. House Resolution 818 is currently being considered in Congress.
Another dairy-focused effort the Farm Bureau is backing would give independent dairy farmers expanded options to vote on the Federal Milk Marketing Orders, which are currently weighted to give more power to large “blocs” of voters, they said. the functionaries.
Metzgar mentioned the need to address meat inspection issues that have made beef more difficult to sell by the cut, an issue for smaller farms, while farm bureau members also mentioned the need to continue to track potential changes with carbon credits, biofuel policy, and the risks and rewards of solar power. .
Dairy farmer Glenn Stoltzfus said he has a lot of questions about the long-term viability of turning to solar panels as an agricultural crop. He said the legislation should direct solar panels to poorer land, rather than fertile soil.
“And there should be regulations on how they unsubscribe,” he said. “There has to be a way to ensure that they are removed from the fields once they are dismantled.”