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November 23, 2013

Farmers cheer transportation bill

— In August, a group of Cambria County farmers broke away from the priority ranking of agriculture concerns and moved increased revenue for highways and bridges to the top of its list.

On Friday members of the Cambria County Farm Bureau were applauding state lawmakers for approving a plan to address the growing problem.

In a second breath, they urged Gov. Tom Corbett to sign the legislation into law as quickly as possible.

“The governor needs to sign it as quickly as possible,” said Martin Yahner, a Patton area farmer and official of the county farm bureau.

That signature should come this week, according to Penn-DOT officials.

“It’s long overdue, said Yahner. “We’re glad they got the House and Senate to a place where they can agree.”

Farmers realize the legislation will hit them as hard or harder than other motorists, but the revenue has to come from someplace, he said.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer said the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges not only are having a negative impact on businesses and the public, but on agriculture as well.

The problem, especially with deteriorating bridges, hit a few months ago when PennDOT imposed weight restrictions on more than 1,000 bridges, including one spanning the North Branch of the Little Conemaugh River near Wilmore and eight in Somerset County.

The measure was taken as an effort to prolong their viability, state Sen. John Wozniak,

D-Westmont, said at the time.

The move was drastic and caught the attention of many.

“During the fall harvest, farmers were forced to take longer routes to deliver corn and soybeans, due to weight restrictions placed on aging bridges,” Shaffer said.

This resulted in higher fuel costs for farmers, reducing profit margins on those crops.

“Some milk haulers also had to find alternative routes to deliver from the farms to the processing facilities and the added fuel costs were passed onto farmers,” Shaffer said.

Kathy Mellott covers agricultural issues for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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