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Renewing Wayne County agriculture

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HONESDALE, PA — Winter may hide agriculture’s home under snow, but not its planning.

Meeting on a frozen January 31, the Wayne County Commissioners continued several planning efforts to reinforce the county’s traditional but faltering agricultural industry.

The highest profile measure among them was funding for an economic development plan for agriculture, which would play a large role in the commissioners’ long-term Wayne Tomorrow plan. The project is funded by a FY 2017, $100,000 grant, (50% with a 50% county share) through the Appalachian Regional Commission.

As outlined last April by Mary Beth Wood, executive director of the Wayne Economic Development Corp. (WEDCO), “Agriculture is the ultimate local industry and influences all aspects of the economic ecosystem, including economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technology innovation, energy security, healthcare and quality of life.”

That plan is now complete and lead consultant and author Phillip Gottwal, of Agricultural and Community Development Services LLC (ACDS) will present it as part of the February 18 program for the 41st annual renewal of AG Day at Honesdale High School. The day-long AG Day program begins at 10 a.m.

Last week, the commissioners approved a $17,000, one-time payment for ACDS to continue its work in 2019. The initial implementation of the plan is expected to widen Wayne’s agricultural base to expanded production of marketable products such as cheeses, yogurts, specialty products for urban niche markets and the siting of a slaughterhouse or dairy-processing facility.

According to the sponsoring Penn State Cooperative Extension, the 2019 Ag Day is an opportunity for the local agricultural communities of Wayne County and surrounding areas to come together and learn about new and innovative technologies, services, product lines, machinery and markets available from local area agribusinesses, associations and industry supporters. It is also an opportunity for agricultural enthusiasts and those wanting to get into agriculture to learn about their local ag industry and have a chance to attend educational meetings presented by speakers from across the state.

Additionally, the commissioners authorized $50,000 for farmland preservation. Pennsylvania now leads the nation in farmland preservation, with more than 550,000 acres permanently preserved, since 1988. Wayne County’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program has more than 6,000 acres protected under conservation easements to help safeguard the farmland from encroaching development.

In other business, following recent consultations with visiting Dennis Davin, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, the commissioners renewed applications for funding of two previously authorized $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants for building projects at the WEDCO Business Park and the Hawley Silk Mill. RACP grant authorizations are not necessarily funded. They remain viable for eight years. The Silk Mill has received $1 million of $2 million sought, and its grant is in its last year of eligibility. The WEDCO project has yet to receive any RACP funding. 

The commissioners also approved the expansion of the probation department’s case-management software for use at the county correctional facility. The efficiency expansion will provide for single-entry filing for the probation department and the correctional facility. The free software was provided by the County Commissioners Association of PA.

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