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Pennsylvania Furnace, PA – Governor Tom Wolf outlined a six-point plan to strengthen Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry amid a changing marketplace and new pressures during remarks to more than 500 industry leaders at Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ annual Ag Progress Days event.
Governor Wolf cited the commonwealth’s competitive advantages and global reputation for quality and innovation as the foundation upon which to build the future of agriculture in Pennsylvania.
“My vision for the future of agriculture takes advantage of what’s special about Pennsylvania’s farms and food processors to set us apart on a global stage,” said Governor Wolf. “We see tremendous opportunities for Pennsylvania, including the opportunity to diversify our business and capitalize on marketing opportunities. And even though there is no shortage of challenges, I believe we are uniquely positioned to capitalize on our many existing strengths and chart a path toward a dynamic and prosperous farming economy in Pennsylvania.”
The governor pointed to a report he unveiled at the 2018 Farm Show that showed Pennsylvania’s agriculture and food industries generate $135.7 billion in economic activity annually. The industries employ nearly 580,000 people and pay wages of nearly $27 billion.
The governor’s recommendations for the future of a vibrant agriculture economy in Pennsylvania build off of strategic recommendations contained in that report, which include:
- Rebuilding and expanding the state’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, ports and broadband;
- Strengthening Pennsylvania’s workforce to ensure the next generation is prepared to lead;
- Removing unnecessary regulatory burdens and strengthening the state’s business climate;
- Establishing business ownership succession plans on the farm and throughout the food system; and creating more processing capabilities to accommodate a growing animal agriculture and protein sector.
Under Governor Wolf, the state already has worked extensively to advance each of these five areas.
The sixth point in the governor’s plan reflects his vision to make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state. In 2016, Pennsylvania overtook Washington as the second leading state for organic sales in the U.S., producing and selling $660 million in certified organic commodities—more than double the amount sold in 2015. Additionally, the number of certified organic farms in the state increased 18 percent to 803 farms.
The rise in organic sales comes as producers seek to meet growing demand. According to the Organic Trade Association, total U.S. organic food sales increased $47 billion in 2017, 8.4 percent increase, which outpaced the growth in the overall food market.
“Demand for organic foods has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and at last, our production is starting to catch up,” said Governor Wolf. “We can do more to help more producers and processors capture a bigger share of the organic market, and we can do that by leveraging our strong reputation in the marketplace.”
The governor’s plan calls for raising public awareness among agricultural producers of the opportunities in organic production—both unmet market demand and the premium prices organic commodities command in the market. There is particularly high demand in Pennsylvania for organic feed grains to serve the state’s growing organic livestock industry, but presently, much of this demand is being met by grains shipped into Pennsylvania from other states and countries.
The governor’s plan builds upon the state’s existing PA PreferredTM program. Many existing members already are certified organic producers, while others are interested in transitioning to organic production. Finally, the state also will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on standards for organic branding and marketing, and it will continue providing transition assistance to those operations that undertake the three-year conversion necessary to certify products and practices as organic.