– Minutes before the start of Tuesday’s Capitol press conference convened by Reps. Dave Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Dan Moul (R-Adams), Clint Owlett (R- Bradford/Potter/Tioga) and John Hershey (R-Franklin/Juniata/Mifflin) about the status of the 2021 Keystone International Livestock Exposition (KILE), the Wolf administration emailed the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee indicating that it would move to open the Farm Show Complex.
The issue has been at the forefront recently as the complex is housing $50 million of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though it is not a suitable location. That storage has prevented outside events from being held there, leading to a loss in needed economic activity in the Harrisburg area.
Also attending the press conference were Jana Malot, past president of the Pennsylvania Livestock Association, along with American Dairy and KILE show competitors, Brittany Truax of Fulton County, Daniel Kitchen of Lancaster County, Taylor Wolfe of Northumberland County and Hayden Weaver of Lancaster County.
“What we don’t have is a time or how the re-opening process will move forward,” Zimmerman said. “We are here today asking for it to be opened in time for the All-American Dairy Show on Sept. 18 and the KILE show Oct. 1.”
Committee chairman Moul, who read the email at the podium, was asked when a decision date was due from the administration and how much of the building needs to be re-opened for these shows and where the state would move its stockpile of PPE.
“There was no official date for a decision,” Moul said. “This caught me 100% totally off guard, and it came, literally five minutes before I came to the podium. And it says it will take a month to clear it out of all the PPE.”
Zimmerman said the size of the dairy and KILE shows and the number of animals would require the entire building to be opened, at least most of it.
“A week ago, at another committee hearing what we were told by the administration made it seem like having the building cleared of PPE anytime soon was a superhuman task,” Moul said. “But if they now say they can somehow magically do it, that is good and welcome news. We need to work with the administration to get this done so the kids can show their animals.”
Truax, a second-year student at Ohio State University Veterinary School, said what folks see in the show ring is actually a very small part of what goes on and these shows require a huge future investment and time commitment for the exhibitors. They spend that money and prepare almost a year in advance.
“My time at KILE has been absolutely amazing,” Truax said. “It is more than teaching me hard work and respect and how to get up early and have pride in something that I’ve done. I just finished my first year of vet school, and I can honestly say that without my livestock, I would not have gotten there.”
Kitchen, a 2020 PSU graduate who now works at K&K Feeds, said something that often goes unmentioned is the networking these events provide, which is such an important part of developing future professional relationships.
“Through these competitions I was able to go overseas for events and the people I did that with are still some of my best friends,” Kitchen said. “The networking is important, and the other opportunities like the Arthur Nesbitt Scholarship. I feel bad a lot of my friends missed out on that last year.”
Wolfe, also a 2020 PSU graduate now employed by ADM, said the events aren’t just important for the kids, but they are also key for the survival of Pennsylvania’s family farmers.
“If you look the past few years, the agriculture industry, and dairy in particular, is declining,” Wolfe said. “And if another event is taken away from these dairy farmers, more of them will be going out of business.”
Owlett, a member of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee who also showed livestock as a youth, urged opening the Farm Show Complex so young farmers will have the same opportunities that set the press conference speakers on their way to success in a difficult industry.
“The life lessons our kids learn on the farm go far beyond go way beyond agriculture – they last a lifetime,” Owlett said. “So, I know what you kids are looking forward to, experienced and want to have. Right now, we have four pigs at my house that we are raising for the fair this year that my kids are going to show.”
Representative Dave Zimmerman
99th Legislative District
Representative Dan Moul
91st Legislative District
Representative Clint Owlett
68th Legislative District
Media Contact: Charles Lardner