GALETON — Pennsylvania agriculture is robust, because of legislative motion by the state, with extra opportunities sooner or later.
That was the connecting thread among the many audio system at a Farmer’s Breakfast, hosted by state Representatives Martin Causer and Clint Owlett March 26 on the Pine Creek Inn. About 150 folks attended, the place Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding was the featured speaker.
These are extraordinary occasions, mentioned Redding, and likewise extraordinary opportunities for the longer term.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bill, adopted 4 years in the past, was created to guard the varied agriculture throughout the state, Redding mentioned. Agriculture is a $132 billion trade, representing 18% of Pennsylvania’s gross state product. It is accountable for 490,000 jobs, about half direct and half oblique.
The invoice works to seize what agriculture is, who it entails and the place it is positioned. It has a conservation part with $50 million invested lately, he mentioned.
Part of that is addressing invasive species.
The objective is to verify the meals provide is protected, the animal inhabitants wholesome, the human inhabitants wholesome and vegetation protected.
It is crucial, Redding mentioned, to put money into provide chains, particularly provide chains near the meals system.
Currently, the division is retaining a detailed watch on the avian flu to stop it from infiltrating the densest poultry populations in Lancaster County. An avian flu that swept by the U.S. in 2015 and 2016 missed Pennsylvania for essentially the most half, because of the connection solid between the veterinary medical college, the land ag college and state diagnostic lab.
The state and nation are additionally watching the corn and wheat provide and the influence the Russian invasion of Ukraine could have.
Larisa Miller, president and CEO of Keystone Farm Futures, additionally spoke about her efforts to re-engineer the meat provide chain. Keystone Farm Futures has created a mannequin the place supermarkets buy beef feeder calves weighing round 650 kilos and small farmers increase between 30 and some hundred calves to market weight, about 1,450 kilos.
KFF is partnering with farmers who’re good stewards, she mentioned, who present high quality feed, have clear and protected amenities with area for the animals to maneuver, and make sure the animals obtain veterinary care.
The closing product carries the PA Preferred Beef label.
“We deliver a product to consumers that is locally produced, supports farms and is high quality,” Miller mentioned.
Causer and Owlett each spoke about legislative motion that may assist farmers. The problem in Harrisburg, mentioned Causer, is a lack of knowledge of rural points in Pennsylvania. Rural residents deserve the identical degree of providers as everybody else, together with broadband.
Owlett touched on his efforts to permit faculties to serve entire milk and sustaining creeks and streams all through the state.
Breakfast concluded with questions and solutions from the viewers. Most have been directed towards Miller and the way the KFF beef mannequin features.
One query did tackle milk pricing. Redding mentioned he is working so that each one producers obtain the identical quantity. All customers pay the premium, which is included within the value, on the grocery store, however not all producers obtain it.
Currently Pennsylvania dairy producers whose product is processed and bought in Pennsylvania obtain the premium. For border counties like Potter and Tioga, if the milk goes out of state at any level alongside the chain, the premium is not paid to the farmer.
“We should treat every Pennsylvania producer as if they are contributing to the Pennsylvania economy, and that’s not how we’re doing it,” Redding mentioned.
Redding additionally responded a query about Pennsylvania failing to hit targets for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reductions into the Chesapeake Bay. The dialogue now is to increase the definition of concentrated animal feeding operations so extra farms have been fall into that class. The problem is Pennsylvania has essentially the most land mass and farms in comparison with the opposite states within the bay’s watershed: New York, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
“We’re asking (the EPA) for reasonableness and to work with us, for funds to get things done and to get credit for what we’ve done,” Causer mentioned.