In discussing country-of-origin labeling on dairy products, Shannon Mason of the Danforth Jersey Farm in Jefferson mentioned some of the family farm's efforts to diversify. It makes yogurt and butter under the Cowbella brand.

"If we just got the standard milk prices, you can't do it," she said.

With higher prices for feed and fuel, it's increasingly difficult for farmers to survive.

U.S. Sens Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand last month reintroduced the Dairy COOL Act, which would extend the USDA's current labeling requirements to include dairy products.

"I like to buy local myself," Mason said.

This includes buying from other farmers to support the local economy.

The majority of people in this country want to support farmers and related businesses, and if approved, country-of-origin labeling will make it easier, she said.

"The more education people have, the better choices they will make," she said.

The Danforth farm milks 40 cows. Only about 10 percent is used on the Cowbella products, so there is room for growth.

"We do everything ourselves from raising jersey cows, to making butter and yogurt," she said.

A Delegation from Otsego County talked about hydraulic fracturing with officials at several stops during a fact-finding mission on the issue. At a stop in Bradford County, Pa., Anthony Ventello, an executive director of the Progress Authority, an economic development agency, said when drilling started three years ago, "we knew very little about the issue."

County Penn State Extension agent Mark Madden said to stay relevant, his agency has been studying the issues, redirecting its efforts to the Marcellus Shale. People have been very concerned about drinking water, seeing what they can do to protect themselves.

One of the biggest problems his agency has faced was finding a control group that would show what the contaminants in the water were before drilling.

Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith said there has been politics behind everything surrounding the issue. Although the county has done a lot of work, officials were left out of the decision making process on the state level, leading him to feel frustrated.

There is an effort to get a service tax for the county, which would help meet some of the additional costs, such as community health and emergency services. Otherwise most of the county funding is provided by the state.

The officials talked about the good and the bad surrounding drilling. Some problems have been the number of transient workers needing a variety of services and not paying property taxes. Some people have had life changing experiences from the payments from gas companies.

When it comes to issues such as road damages, they found that it was important to build good relationships with the companies.

County Conservation District Manager Mike Lovegreen advised the group to start by educating landowners so they negotiate good leases. This is probably more important than any state regulations.

"If we could have been better prepared, people would be a lot happier," he said.

Mark Boshnack can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 218, or at mboshnack@thedailystar.com.

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