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Agriculture Department opens new building at Ag Progress Days

The sun was shining bright on the new building for the Department of Agriculture at the Ag Progress Days site.
After being named Secretary of Agriculture, Sam Hayes Jr., a Warriors Mark native set up shop at Ag Progress Days on a card table. Now the Agriculture Department has a new building.
“Ag Progress Days is a very specific show,” said Hayes. “It tells the story of where we are in agriculture, but even more important it shows where we are going to be and where we are going to be and where we have to position ourselves to be profitable. The show is non-competitive; it shows where we have to be in the 21st Century.”
In the budget for the Department of Agriculture, $3.5 million is allotted for research and two million of that is allocated to Penn State for agriculture research. Ag Progress Days showcases that research.
Inside the Department of Agriculture building, there are many excitiing things. A robot captured the attention of many who walked by. The building is also filled with new logos and projects developed by Hayes.
The first display features Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program. The Commonwealth leads the nation in preservation. As you walk further through the building, there is a food safety exhibit for school cafeterias.
The oversight of the school cafeterias moved under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture under Hayes tenure as Secretary.
“I never understood having the people who monitor school cafeterias monitoring for food safety,” said Hayes. “I moved it to the Department of Agriculture. We now have the new campaign, ‘Good Nutrition Promotes Good Learning.’
Another prominent display included the ‘Got Milk’ promotion. Pennsylvania’s agriculture production is 48 percent dairy.
One exhibit Hayes pointed out was the landscaping exhibit, which is the fastest growing field in agriculture, Hayes noted.
The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement now falls under the Ag Department.
“This bureau is responsible for all licensing and vaccinations of dogs,” said Hayes. “The incidents of rabies in dogs was the highest in the 1940’s and now it is down to zero. Raccoons are the number one carrier of the disease, although it’s carried by skunks and foxes too. We just completed a rabies baiting program for Western Pennsylvania, from Erie down to West Virginia.”
The Daily Herald asked Hayes what is being done to protect residents from the West Nile Virus.
“We have Sentinel Chickens that are checked by blood tests for the virus,” the Secretary said. “From an equine standpoint, Pennsylvania is concerned there are more than 250,000 horses in the state. Horses that contract the disease suffer thirty to forty percent mortality loss. No species of animal is more ravaged by West Nile Virus than horses.
“Recently a mosquito infected with the disease was found at the Penn National Race Track,” Hayes noted. “The vaccine hasn’t proved to be as effective as we hoped. There are many different strains. Older people are the most susceptible because of their immune systems are weakened and infants are susceptible because their immune systems are not fully developed.”
Anything new in agriculture, in production agriculture is promoted in the new building point the way to a bright future for agriculture in Pennsylvania.