Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, June 25, 1994, Image 1

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UNIVERSITY PARH PA 16A0? tAO? I J| / ——~l l| 1
H JUN 28 \
Vol. 39 NO. 33
Farmers Tell Of Experiences With Deadly Silo Gas, Molds
Editor’s note: This is the first
of a three-part series.
Lancaster Fanning Staff
CONESTOGA (Lancaster Co.)
Rodney Martin, Ken Kirkland,
Ted Ferris, and Michael Schutz all
share a common memory. It’s a
memory filled with a great deal of
pain, anger, and anxiety.
And it’s a pain that, under worse
circumstances, could have turned
At the same time, if they knew
then what they know now, the pain
could have easily been avoided.
In the telling of their experi
ences, each one hopes that farmers
would listen carefully and try to
avoid the mistakes they made
regarding what happened to them
or someone they knew on the farm
years ago.
State Budget Doesn’t Cut Agriculture, Reinstates Some Programs
Lancaster Fanning Staff
Co.) —The state’s 1994-95
budget was passed by the state
legislature and signed by the gov
ernor last week, two weeks ahead
of deadline.
The only apparent hitch was an
error discovered in the final ver
sion that inadvertently eliminated
Bitters Prepare For National Young Holstein Breeders Contest
Lancaster Farming Staff
Co.) Vista-Grande Farm is a
classic farmstead, with a big
neighbor the Deka battery
recycling plant
Lancaster County Dairy Princess Amy Espenshade is flanked by family members,
from left, Harvey, Susan, Becky, and Matthew. The Espenshades operate a Century
Farm in Elizabethtown. Turn to page B 2 to read more about Amy and the pageant.
Photo bv Lou Ann Good, ttaff wrltor.
604 Per Copy
Rodney Martin
Dairyman Rodney Martin
blames not getting to the silo and
doing the work when it should
have been done.'
Rodney was backlogged with
work to do in the dairy bam, and
didn’t have time to return to the
newly-filled 20-foot by 70-foot
haylage silo to level it off. The silo
was filled about 2 a.m. on May 25,
1994. Rodney returned to the silo
about 12 hours later, on a hot after
noon, to hook up a blower to the
pipe leading into the top of the silo.
Rodney knew some of the dead
liest gas in the world nitrogen
dioxide, as the scientists called it
lurked at the bottom of a “val
ley” created by the filling. Look
ing from the top of the silo, he
could easily make out the dark,
greenish-brown gases in the
taxes for trucking that would have
created a $9O million shortfall. The
has approved correct
ing -that mistake.
In general, the $15.7 billion
budget package cuts welfare bene
fits and also some business taxes,
while putting more money toward
schools and prisons, according to
published reports and government
The farm is owned by David and
Phoebe Bitler and as far as they are
concerned. Deka has been a good
neighbor, dissuading residential
development and testing their
well water every six weeks for a
long list of contaminants that they
Lancaster Farming, Saturday, June 25, 1994
Series Examines Silo Safet
The blower wasn’t clearing the
gases at all. Rodney learned, later
on, that the air was simply going
up the pipe, through the top of the
silo, and down the other side. He
had an idea. The only way, he
thought, to get to the gases was to
open a series of access doors on the
inside chute.
So, after 15-20 minutes of blow
ing fresh air into the chute, Rodney
began the climb up. His plan was
to throw open the door and quickly
climb to a higher level above the
gases. Simple, he thought Just get
the door open right at silage level,
so instead of the air jumping over
the top, the silo gas could simply
drop down and away from the silo.
“In theory, that should have
worked,” said Rodney. “In fact
that’s what I eventually did."
For the state’s leading industry,
agriculture in effect bad some
funding restored from last year’s
budget, and seemed to signal a
reverse in a trend of annual cuts to
agriculture that have occured
under Gov. Casey.
Casey, who as governor signed
his final budget plan, has in past
years used his line-item veto pow
ers to either eliminate funding for
expect will never show up.
The expensive testing is a
requirement for the plant to oper
ate, but it serves as a constant reas
surance to the Biders that the Deka
plant is living up to its role as an
environment improving company.
Rodney’s brother Jere had gone
up there before, and gases were
already ejecting from the chute.
Jere quickly came down, and com
plained to Rodney that he already
felt nauseous, that he about passed
out he could hardly stand, and felt
pretty sick. Jere told Rodney
“don’t go up there, whatever you
So the brothers stood and
debated what to do. Rodney
decided he would climb as fast as
he could, open a door, and move
quickly to a higher level.
The split second he threw the
door open, Rodney knew some
thing hit him.
“A cloud of gas hit me, dark
gas, and it surprised me,” he said.
“I knew it would happen. But it
surprised me that it hit me so fast.”
Rodney got about two whiffs of
several agricultural programs, or
has refused to release promised
funds to certain agricultural agen
cies and programs.
The normal partisan budget
debates, which have held up pas
sage of previous budgets months
past the annual June 30 deadline,
were not as evident with the form
ing of the budget
And, according to an Associated
In addition Deka provides 2,800
non-union jobs.
Area school kids know the farm.
Phoebe encourages some school
Held trips to the family farm where
she grew up, and she talks to the
kids, explaining from where milk
Six-County Group Considers
Agribusiness Development
Somerset Co. Correspondent
JOHNSTOWN (Cambria Co.)
Maybe it boils down to the old
maxim that one man’s trash is
another’s treasure, but the impact
of the state’s eastern, urban sprawl
on ag-related industry could be a
bonus for the west central, six
county block known as the South
ern Alleghenies.
Growing problems in the east
include the heavy traffic, pollution
and the usual citizen complaints.
What do Southern Alleghenies
counties offer? Cambria, Bedford,
Blair, Fulton, Huntingdon and
Somerset counties are less urban
ized, with space for innovative
agribusiness ideas to flourish.
The fact that agriculture is the
leading industry here, just as it is
for the state, is a bonus. But can
the right people be persuaded that
their joint cooperation can create
agribusiness growth? Besides his
daily sweat and toil, will the far
mer reap a good harvest from it?
FOur Sections
the toxic gas and could feel it bum
the whole way down his throat.
Rodney managed to crawl
above the reeling gas, far enough
to get some fresh air. Still feeling
the burning pain, and lightheaded,
(Turn to Pag* A 24)
What’s this device? Turn
to page A2O to find out how
scientists are looking for
ways ,to monitor plant
health. ‘
Press report, this year’s budget dis
cissions eliminated participation
of the majority House Democrats,
who opposed the welfare cuts and
business tax cuts.
According to the published
repeat. Senate and House Republi
cans and House Republicans nego
tiated the budget with Gov. Casey
(Turn to Page A 32)
comes, how its made, and she
hands out coloring books along
with white or chocolate milk.
Phoebe was the 1973 Berks
County dairy princess. She has
kept and honed public speaking
. (Turn to Pag* A3O)
These were topics discussed by
a panel on agricultural economic
development, held during South
ern Alleghenies Planning and
Development Commission’s 28th
annual conference, at the Market
Street Holiday Inn in Johnstown.
Panelists were John Zerby, Pur
ina Feeds; Scott Clemens, Hat
field Quality Meats; Evan Fine
man, Atlantic Dairy Cooperative;
Christian Herr, State Dept, of
Agriculture; Governor’s Response
Team, Carol Ployer, and WaltFul
lam, Penn State.
Moderator was Donald Evans,
assistant dean of Penn State’s Col
lege of Agricultural Sciences. He
was introduced by Dick Rice,
chairman of the Bedford County
It was a discussion of impor
tance to some 50 county govern
ment leaders, employment offi
cials, bankers, Farm Credit offi
cials, farmers and others.
Evans noted that in Pennsylva
(Turn to Pag* A 23)
$21.00 Per Year