Agriculture advocate and 20 year certified crop management advisor, Melissa Bravo of Lawrenceville announced February 22 her intention to seek the state’s 68th Legislative House seat due to the escalating dairy milk price collapse that is devastating the livelihood of our rural economy.
Her message to farmers and landowners over the last week has been clear. “I identify as a farmer and I don’t care what political party you are affiliated with – I am here to work on your behalf to bring agriculture goods manufacturing and processing jobs back to this community. We have to focus on our needs and invest in what we do best – and that is agriculture products.”
Bravo who has been a registered Republican since high school is the former state botanist/weed scientist for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture noxious weed eradication programs and served as the coordinator of the Governor’s Invasive Species Council under Ag Secretary Russell Redding in Harrisburg. She is the lead author of the state invasive species management plan; the state feral swine management plan and the 2017 Noxious Weed and Controlled Plant Law.
A 1987 graduate of Wellsboro High School, Melissa is the daughter of former Wellsboro Ag teacher, Guy and veterinary office manager Helena Bravo. Guy and Helena were actively involved in the Tioga County Fair and raised 200 sheep and later 60 head of commercial beef on their farm in Wellsboro. The Bravo family century farm (circa 1908) is located in Lawrenceville, Lawrence Township where Melissa continues to raise registered Black Angus replacement bulls and heifers.
A 1991 Large Animal Science graduate of Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture, Melissa worked for SmithKline Beecham Animal Health in West Chester Pa. She returned to take over the farm in 1993 and work for West Branch Crop Management Association based in Jersey Shore, PA. Melissa’s dairy and row crop producers stretched from McKean County down through Potter, Tioga and into Lycoming County. After graduating from Penn State with a Master of Science in Agronomy focusing on herbicide resistance in 2002, she worked for Crop Production Services in Goshen, NY as the tristate regional sales agronomist for Eastern PA, Southeastern NY and Northwest NJ counties.
Bravo returned to Pennsylvania in 2005 to work for the State Department of Agriculture in Harrisburg. As the interim state noxious weed program manager for eight years, Melissa acquired and managed hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal and state grants used to assist rural landowners eradicate invasive species. She trained and led a team of highly skilled spray applicators responsible for removal of federal and state noxious weeds throughout the Commonwealth. She coordinated the formation of a Cooperative Weed Management Area called the Sinnemahoning Invasive Plant Management Area and under her leadership, 453 sites of the scarring poisonous plant giant hogweed were identified in seventeen PA counties. 325 of these sites were declared eradicated during her leadership. More than 55% of the Pennsylvania populations were found in Erie County with additional sites in Crawford, Mercer, McKean, Venango counties and to a lesser extent in Warren, Elk, Potter, Butler, Blair, Huntingdon, Carbon, and Wayne counties.
“I know rural Pennsylvania and I know what landowners need, what they want, and how they really feel about our commonwealth.” Water rules and regulations are one area of government she plans to revamp. “It is clear to everyone who owns land that our government officials cannot relate to the way the land works and how we work the land. There are too many rules and regulations hampering progress. Common sense starts on the farm. Let’s embrace the inherent skilled worker’s love and pride in land ownership and bring our communities back to life.”
Melissa trained and assisted neighboring states and federal officials with site specific eradication programs. A large infestation of the federal noxious weed goatsrue was discovered in 2009 in McKean County in the vicinity of Smethport. Bravo was responsible for acquiring funding to survey the infestation and developed a rapid response plan with the municipalities. She and her staff worked with 169 property owners in 11 municipalities in Cameron, Potter and Montgomery, Elk Counties and the Allegheny National Forest and Elk State Forest. “Our municipal employees do more than just plow snow and repair roads. We need to give them the tools, training and resources to fix a problem and step back and let them do it.”
Melissa returned to Tioga County in 2012 to work with dairy producers when commodities, dairy and gas production was booming in the region. As the boom waned, she used her research and education to expand into reporting on agriculture issues. She is now nationally known as an agriculture and rural landowner issues expert. Her articles can be found in Progressive Forage Grower, Mountain Home, the Farming Magazine and in the Lancaster Farming, Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Wellsboro Gazette newspapers. She hosts an Agricultural Spotlight channel on the Wellsboro Home Page Network that focuses on agrotourism.
“I have dedicated my career to helping landowners make a profitable living. Writing, evaluating and revising burdensome land use regulations is my expertise and what I will do for you as your representative. We all deserve the opportunity and recognition to take pride in our work, our home and our community. I am ready to take on that challenge.”
After talking to more than 700 registered and unregistered voters the past week, she is confident she has the backing and support to take the lead. She is not deterred by her failure to get her 300 signatures down to Harrisburg on time. “I had to pit stop for a water pump breakdown on Monday after a 700 mile trek through Tioga and Bradford counties going door to door with farmers and landowners to talk about the dairy crisis. Unfortunately that cost me getting the last few verified signatures I needed to get my name on the ballot. She is deeply grateful and empowered by the 287 signatures she did receive since the 23rd. “I would have had 700 signatures in just the first three days, but we’ve a lot of angry young farmers out there who don’t like either political party. They have a voice in this and we all need to listen to them and let them choose. They are the future property tax payers our our region”.
But farmers are used to breaking down. “We recharge and go again. I am in this for the long haul. So get out and register to vote if you identify with my goal to bring back jobs we can take pride in doing. Write me in for the primary. I’ll advocate for the farmer in you all the way to November and beyond.”
Melissa A. Bravo, M.S. CCA, Agronomist
Meadow Lake Farm Consulting Services 814-574-4067 /
BRAVO FOR AGRICULTURE