Dear Friends of Agriculture,

This morning I was greeted by a very concerned board member who urged me to read the Thursday York Dispatch relating to comments about a possible historic project possibly taking funds from the ag preservation program.

I feel a public response is in order to further explain what the York County Ag Land Preservation Board's mission is and why we operate this locally created and locally led program to preserve and protect viable agricultural communities in York County.

First I wish to thank the past and present county commissioners for 23 years of continuous support for a program that generations from now will benefit from our visionaries who understood the need to protect American grown food and feed.

This program was so important to Pennsylvania voters in the late 1980s it received over 70 percent voter approval. We can rest assured we will not outsource our food production to other foreign governments, as we have our energy.

In a day and age when public funds are sparse and being requested for every pet project by every special interest group, government can only do so much. When do the taxpayers stop being responsible for every perceived cause. What is the function of government? Isn't government's function to provide for the general welfare of our people?

Farmland preservation represents the one economic stimulus program York County provides to a very small community in York, our farm families. Recent Census figures tell us only 1 percent of our nation today is feeding the other 99 percent of us ... and in the ag industry it is getting harder to keep farm children on the family farm.

The industry is fraught with extreme risk and potential capital losses if crops fail, markets fail, banks fail to lend, or disease and pests destroy crops and livestock. The farmer is truly a gambler in my book. Few of us are willing to take these risk in our personal lives. They are rich only after they die and the farm must be sold to pay the taxes.

Our county also benefits from using farmland preservation as a growth-management tool. Farmland preservation when combined with growth boundaries help communities plan for growth in an orderly and affordable manner, ensuring communities remain solvent and not bankrupt.

Farmland preservation ensures national security for U.S. food production and food distribution, ensures our wells and watersheds recharge local and regional water supplies. It provides habitat for wildlife, as well as helps communities balance the cost of people and growth.

A logical case can always be made for the public funding directed toward farmland preservation efforts. It benefits every citizen and helps local, county, and state government keep the lights on and balance our fiscal budgets.

The cost of people is very high and balancing the cost of humans is a gowing concern at every level of government today.

How we allocate our precious and few tax dollars should be a regular discussion point at every public meeting. Priorities should be set each year and the taxpayer always the sole beneficiary of the final budgets approved.

Our county has struggled to properly maintain structures we currently use for existing programs and county personnel. As a county employee, I applaud the county commissionsers excellent recent work to replace windows, doors, heating and AC in the county annex building located at 118 Pleasant Acres in East York.

This wonderful old building plays host to Penn State Cooperative Extension, Conservation District, Envirothon, Master Gardener, many youth programs, farmland preservation, courts, and other government and nonprofit agencies ... truly a structure worthy of continued public use and enjoyment by York citizens and youth on a daily basis. Thank You.

-- Patricia H. McCandless is director of the York County Agricultural Land Preservation Board.