State official inspects local township’s fly dilemma; commissioner says local dairy farmers in ‘crisis’

An entomologist, a zoologist who focuses specifically on insects, and professor from Penn State recently visited Limestone Township with the Lycoming County commissioners to check on the chicken farm that has been a breeding ground for hundreds of thousands of flies for years to help them come up with a solution for extermination, the commissioners said Tuesday.

“I think we’re optimistic in putting together a plan to help the residents,” said Commissioner Jack McKernan. “It’s going to require community involvement. If we don’t get everybody working on the extermination, it’s going to take longer.”

The visitors from Penn State were “optimistic” after seeing the operations at the farm, which went under new management in February, McKernan said.

“The operation’s under new ownership, and the farmers have seemed very dedicated from the start to doing it the right way,” he said.

Some ideas thrown around included involving local Boy Scouts’ troops, bringing in certain types of swallows that feed on flies, arming homes with fly strips and fly traps and more. The hope is to resolve the problem by the end of the year, McKernan said.

“We’re going to put together a plan and we’re going to make something happen,” said Commissioner Rick Mirabito. “After (Monday’s) meeting, I feel more optimistic that there’s a path out of the forest. There is something we can do.”

A manager for the integrator, or the person who owns the farm’s livestock, also was present at the farm and told the commissioners fly problems of the scale seen in Nippenose Valley are uncommon, McKernan said.

“He said he’s got about 120 farms that he takes care of,” McKernan said. “He said, from what he sees, this farmer’s got his act together.”

While Mirabito and McKernan scoped out the ongoing fly issue, Commissioner Tony Mussare facilitated a meeting between dairy farmers and the state secretary of agriculture, Russell C. Redding.

Mussare emphasized what heavy losses the dairy industry has faced.

“We are losing so many dairy farmers not only locally, but across the nation,” he said. “At one time, there were 600,000 some farms and now we’re down to less than 40,000 — registered. They’re just not receiving enough money to keep up with expenses.”

Local farmers need to be able to brand their milk and get credit for what they bring to the market, he said, adding he wants to do what he can to increase awareness on how to “identify PA milk.”

There is a code typically printed near the top of dairy product containers or right on the label that identifies where certain dairy products are coming from, he said. If the code starts with 42, the product came from a Pennsylvania dairy farm.

Those interested can learn more and further identify their dairy products by visiting www.whereismymilkfrom.com.

“PA Preferred is the key,” Mirabito added.

“If you see a bottle of milk or dairy product that has ‘PA Preferred,’ you know that it is not only milk from here, but it was processed here,” McKernan explained.

Mirabito suggested teaming up with other counties and holding public hearings to educate community members and “bring statewide attention to the crisis.”

“We really have no power, but we do have grassroots, and we’ll do whatever it takes to try to save our farmers,” Mussare said. “No one wants to see our farms go.”

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