Inside Tom and Mary Lou Smithmyer’s potato barn Wednesday, area farmers sat shoulder-to-shoulder with public officials.

Farmers gathered at the 240-acre potato and corn farm near Patton to tell politicians what they can do to keep the family farm operational.

Those who attended are members of the Cambria County Farm Bureau – a small yet vocal group that applauded recent legislative successes and provided another long wish list.

Also on hand were state Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, and Cambria County Commissioners P.J. Stevens and Bill Harris.

Bob Davis, the farm bureau’s president, and Marty Yahner, who owns a 1,600-acre farm, said more needs to be done to save family farms.

Davis said one of the biggest issues is the regulation of coal-bed methane wells. The farm bureau supports changes in law to keep operators of methane wells from accessing private property or developing wells on farms without the landowner’s written consent.

Wozniak said he and fellow legislators want farmers to be compensated for noise and property damage.

“As methane becomes more profitable, you’ll hear more chirping,” Wozniak said, adding that he will try to put a bill on the fast track.

Stevens said the county plans to use aerial maps to find coal lands that contain methane. “When they come up for tax sale, we can give farmers one of the first opportunities to buy the (mineral rights),” he said.

Among the other topics farmers discussed were the mandated use of low-sulfur diesel for off-road farm equipment, farmland preservation, the Farm Bill and the Clean Water Restoration Act.

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