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December 06, 2016
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If you want something done right…

Agriculture is another area where progress seems to come mostly from pulling at our own bootstraps. National legislative efforts are at best mixed: Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania has introduced a bill that would incorporate the farmers’ cost of production into milk pricing, but he confused the matter by also introducing a bill that would eliminate price supports without providing anything new in the way of farmer support. Meanwhile, Calkins Creamery has continued to forge its own way by adding a pasteurizer, developing a market in NYC and adding a farm tour, among other actions. The farmers’ market in Honesdale will now operate year round, providing an outlet for farmers who have expanded their seasons with tools such as unheated greenhouses called “high tunnels” or “hoop houses.” Organizations like the Sullivan County Farm Network, Farmhearts and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture have expanded their efforts to make local farming profitable and sustainable.

There were, to be sure, a few major local goofs, a number of them related to zoning. The expansion of a wood processing plant in Delaware on Swiss Hill Road to a character and size contrary to the spirit of the zoning was an example of the way in which insufficiently clear drafting of an ordinance, combined with enforcement failures, can seriously degrade the quality of life for some residents. Similar fuzziness has been evident in Liberty with regard to expansions of non-conforming uses, especially with regard to Camp Agudah, with more brewing with regard to the zoning for a proposed recycling plant. (See “An error correction or a zoning change?” in last week’s newspaper.)

But by and large it was higher levels of government that seemed to commit the major blunders. The aforementioned “extortion bill,” trading off impact fee relief for local control, is perhaps the biggest example on the Pennsylvania side. And in New York, the placement of a two percent cap on property taxes, without any mandate relief offered, is a fiasco that threatens to bankrupt Sullivan in the next budget, now that the county has run through its capital reserves. A continuing trend toward centralization by the PA Department of Environmental Protection, taking control over environmental concerns from the conservation districts that know the most about them—and have the biggest stake in them—is another discouraging development.