The General Secretary of the GA speaks on the state of agriculture | News, Sports, Jobs

PAT CROSSLEY / Sun-Gazette Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock, left, and Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding stand with members of the Montoursville School District, Future Farmers of America, Brady Steinbacher, Gavin Reeder, Tyler Lepley, Matthias Albert and their advisor, Dan Tucker.

Speaking to a room filled with members of the farming community, future student farmers, area lawmakers and community members, Secretary of State for Agriculture Russell C. Redding said the pandemic has “Reminded us all how important agriculture is, but how fragile this farming system is. “

“If there is a ray of hope in the pandemic, I think it is the appreciation of what we have as individuals and what we have as a community and as a state. in our agricultural industry “, Redding said.

“And, we were reminded how important agriculture is to our state and our national security,” he added.

Redding noted that agriculture should be “at the table” when discussing the economic development of the state.

He added that 18% of the state’s gross product is agriculture and food, with $ 132 billion and 580,000 agriculture-related jobs.

“We now have something definitive to say: what is the size and scale of the industry, and what does it need” Redding said.

“The other important thing is that we wanted to be able to tell each of these students who are taking an agricultural science education, what those jobs and this workforce landscape will look like in the future,” said Redding, speaking of the Future Farmer students who attended Friday’s breakfast.

Redding explained the difficulty of filling jobs when there are not enough students in agricultural programs in schools to fill those jobs.

“How do you inspire someone to join this business? How to transmit to communities and schools which do not have a scientific program AG, what is agriculture? Why should they be interested in studying agriculture? Let’s talk about jobs. Let’s talk about the impact ”, he said.

Redding pointed out how agriculture is at the intersection of some of today’s most important issues.

“It’s food, it’s jobs, it’s the economy, it’s conservation, it’s the environment” Redding said.

“When you start to define agriculture in the state, it’s not an easy thing to do. Everyone has a slightly different definition of what agriculture is ”, he said.

Detailing how different parts of the state define agriculture based on products specific to that region, such as mushrooms in Chester County, grapes in Erie, Lancaster County, dairy, pork, poultry He noted that most people leave out forestry, which includes about 15 million acres of farmland in the state.

Redding addressed the economics of farming, noting that there likely wasn’t a farmer in attendance at the event who wasn’t in transition.

“What do you do with these raw material prices which have been on a wild ride? What are you doing with a dairy industry right now when corn and soybeans have pushed margins to 24% of what they were a year ago, less than a year ago? What are you doing with those poultry and pork guys trying to figure out how to get their animals to enjoy the $ 7 corn? “ he said.

“I can tell you that there is no margin in this” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the margin. If there is no margin, then there is no mission.

“It is important that we focus on AG issues, invest in AG” he added.

The animal health issue is important in the state that Redding has classified as a “Animal agriculture” State. He noted that one of the concerns right now revolves around the African swine fever which is raging in the Dominican Republic.

Redding said chronic wasting disease in the deer population is also a concern, which can be a controversial issue.

“It’s part of the animal kingdom and we try to be fair to our deer breeders”, he said.

“It’s a problem both inside and outside the fence. I’m a little fed up with pointing fingers at whether it’s wild deer or domestic deer. In the end, we have a problem ”, he added.

The secretary also spoke about the state’s role in the Chesapeake Bay initiative related to the reduction of nutrients entering the bay.

“It’s no secret that the onus to do the nitrogen and phosphorus work falls on Pennsylvania,” Redding said. “Of the total reduction that remains to be done, 80% of those 50 million pounds of nitrogen must come from agriculture. “

“How are you going to do that?” We cut it in half, but it took 30 years to do it. We no longer have 30 years to do so ”, he said.

“There is a very deep culture of stewardship in agriculture. We want to respect that. We will not achieve the ultimate goal of reductions without the full support and endorsement of the farming community. You will never get there without the resources to get the job done. I’ve never heard a farmer say, “I don’t want to do this. They said to me, ‘I can’t afford to do this’. he added.

Also speaking at the event, Senator Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock, spoke about an AG Conservation Assistance Program bill he is working on that deals with drinking water.

“I’m not focusing on the Chesapeake Bay; I’m focusing on what we’re doing with our own water here in Pennsylvania, so we don’t have to worry about what’s going on downstream, ” Yaw said.

“We are trying to go back and help the farmers because… the open land is where we need to focus”, he added.

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