MIFFLIN - The Juniata County Farm Bureau hosted an event on Thursday at JimRay Farms and Rep. Tom Marino, R-Selinsgrove, attended the event. Marino is the representative for the 10th Congressional District, which encompasses both Mifflin and Juniata counties, as well several others.
Marino was joined by Juniata County Commissioners Teresa O'Neal and Bob Reynolds, as well as the Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Animal Agriculture Matt Meals.
Meals said the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture did very well in the most recent budget.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Rep. Tom Marino, R-Selinsgrove, left, listens as JimRay Farms owner Jim Shenk, right, talks about the grass-fed beef that he raises on his Nook farm with his wife Rachel, back right, during a legislative farm tour Thursday.
"Agriculture is Pennsylvania's No. 1 industry ... (it) plays a huge role in our economy," he said.
Meals said he is a first-generation farmer and a lot of the staff, including the department's Secretary George Greig, are also farmers.
Meals and Marino fielded a question on the Farm Inheritance Tax right off the bat.
Meals said the state tax was abolished, but the federal inheritance tax still exists.
"It's an obscene way for the federal government to collect revenue that they don't know what to do with anyway," Marino said of the tax.
Meals also gave an update on the status of Chronic Wasting Disease among Pennsylvania's deer population.
Meals said there have been no positive test results in the wild recently; however, several deer farms remain under quarantine.
Meals also spoke about the "PA Preferred" program and the remarkable success it has had since it began in recent years. The program allows people who produce a Pennsylvania product made from Pennsylvania goods to use the "PA Preferred" emblem on their product.
Questions then shifted toward Marino and the stagnation of legislation in Washington D.C.
Marino said Washington wastes too much money.
Marino also touched on Pennsylvania's pension crisis, which he said was created over a number of years.
Marino said the pension system for state employees is out of control and that the private sector model doesn't have the problems the state does.
"It's obscene and criminal," Marino said.
Reynolds and O'Neal said it is important to make your voices heard and speak to your representatives and stay engaged with organizations like the farm bureau who will advocate on behalf of farmers.
Marino said the federal government needs to be about half its current size and that President Barack Obama has "driven a wedge in this country."
Immigration is a hot topic right now, Marino said, and "this adminstration wants total amnesty." Marino said he doesn't agree with offering total amnesty to those in the country illegally.
"First thing we need to do is secure the borders," he added.
Marino said a massive influx of people would put an already strained welfare system into further disarray.
"The Democrats say total amnesty and the border is fine," he added.
Marino also had some choice words to offer the Environmental Protection Agency, which he views as overbearing.
"It's a constant battle with this White House ... no ability to reach an agreement, one way or no way," Marino said of this administration.
"We better start thinking about who we elect president," he added.
Marino has always advocated for a balanced budget.
"Every president since the 60s has doubled the debt ... we need a reality check," Marino said.
Marino fears that if the dollar is downgraded again, China may become the most powerful country in the world "not through their military, through the financial market."
Marino closed out his comments by giving an update on the Farm Bill.
Marino said the Farm Bill passed the house, without the food stamps provision, which represented 80 percent of past Farm Bill's budgets.
The Farm Bill has since stalled in the Senate because of the removal of the food stamp provision, Marino said.