Franklin Co. farmer talks with Bush at FFA event

June 17, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL


A Franklin County, Pa., dairy farmer told President Bush that the agriculture tax base is becoming a source of stress on farmers and that their income is not keeping pace with the rest of the economy.

Jeff Grove of Southampton Township and eight of his family members traveled to State College, Pa., on Tuesday to meet with the president before Bush's speech at the state FFA convention.

The FFA is celebrating the end of its 75th year, Grove said. At the annual three-day FFA convention, state officers are elected and members receive awards and participate in contests.


"It's quite an event," Grove said. "FFA members attend from throughout the state."

Grove formerly served as an FFA officer, and his two older daughters, Emily and Laura, are past state officers and still are involved. Caleb, 14, will enter FFA this school year.

The extended Grove family operates the 380-acre Gro-Lan Farms near Shippensburg. They milk about 200 cows.

Grove said he is grateful to "the FFA organization and my two daughters for making this possible. This is an honor." The family was selected to meet the president because of the offices his daughters had held, he said.

Grove had received a phone call from state FFA officials asking about his family's farming operation.

"We're a three-generation farm, and they wanted to know some history," Grove said. "Then they asked, 'Would you consider a call from the White House?'"

While Grove readily consented, he did not know why the White House would be calling him.

"Everyone was vague due to security," Grove said. "Then when the call came, the first thing the caller said was, 'This is the White House calling,' and I thought, 'Yeah, right,' but I said, 'Yes, go ahead.'

"They wanted to know everything about us, and they did an extensive background check. They said, 'We'll get back to you with more information.' I did not know what it was about 'til last Friday when the news releases broke. Then I knew I had the opportunity to meet the president."

For several days, there were numerous phone calls.

"It was a little difficult to work sometimes, there were a lot of security details," Grove said. "They are very cautious."

In addition to shaking the president's hand and having his photo taken with him, Grove said he spoke with Bush while some of the awards were being presented.

"He met with the governor and other dignitaries. I was the last person before he went on stage," Grove said. "He was interested in what I do. We were in a room by ourselves and we talked about my farming and my background. We started to talk about his agenda and the tax structure. He asked me what I see happening with that, and I talked about the ag tax base."

"It's getting to the point that it's very stressful. Farmland values are going up and our income is not keeping pace with the rest of the economy," he said he told Bush.

"About the time I started to talk about the inheritance tax, they pulled him away (because) they were ready for him on stage," Grove said. "He turned around and made a positive comment about the inheritance tax, something like, 'We're going to make this one happen.' That really pleased me."

The president was "very personal, very genuine," Grove said.

"We sat near Joe Paterno," Grove said.

Renee Grove, 11, said that after the president's speech, he came down to meet her family.

"When he was greeting us, I said 'hi,' and he said 'hi' back," Renee said. 'I said, 'I'm Jeff Grove's daughter,' and he said, 'Cool.' Then he said, 'I like your pearls,' because I was wearing pearls with my dress."

Renee added that her experience might seem a bit improbable to others.

"Earlier today, I called some of my friends and I told some people I saw the president, and they said, 'RIGHT,'" Renee said. "They didn't believe me because I'm only 11 years old, and most people don't get to see the president when they're 11 years old."

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