Our Commonwealth is a land of unrivaled beauty and bountiful natural resources. We have some of the most fertile land in the nation. Our vibrant agricultural sector has been one of the strongest and most diversified in the nation for centuries, producing a wide variety of food commodities while providing a cherished livelihood for families over generations. The agricultural sector powers our food processing, agribusiness, and retail food industries generating one in seven Pennsylvania jobs. These farms have approximately $6.7B in direct economic impact on the Commonwealth, and $67B in indirect economic impact.
But our farms would not exist without the families who live and labor there. Just two percent of our nation’s population produces the food and fiber we need. Our efficient and hard-working farm families enable 98 percent of us to pursue other work and dreams. All business enterprises must cope with different challenges and uncertainties. Agriculture, however, is confronted by more than most. Farmers constantly face soaring costs, unpredictable markets, and volatile prices for what they produce. They are at the mercy of the weather and overburdened with regulation. Our farmers must compete nationally and globally. Yet they are the most efficient producers in the world. In fact, Americans spend less of their disposable income on food than citizens of any other country; this is due to the efficiency of our agricultural industry.
We must commit to championing the continued growth of the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania. I will pursue several actions for the future of farming and its related industries in the Commonwealth:
Grow Pennsylvania’s agricultural proficiency by investing in Pennsylvania’s workforce, research, and development
Pennsylvania farms must have the human and technological resources to thrive in the Commonwealth. We must continue to foster employment opportunities that lead to attractive, lifelong careers in farming, agribusiness and the food industry. As Governor, I will:
- Mirror the content of teaching and training throughout Pennsylvania’s agriculture education system with the need for a sufficient and capable workforce for agriculture and its related industries. This process will be enhanced by a state Commission on Agriculture Education Excellence, recently created by a new law
- Expand our support of diverse agricultural practices. Conventional agriculture production and organic farming both meet the wants and needs of the marketplace. A spirit of mutual understanding and partnering should be encouraged throughout all segments of agriculture
- Work with the federal government to ensure that Pennsylvania farmers have a reliable seasonal workforce
- Adequately fund research and development at Penn State and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to combat crop infestation, infectious diseases and other threats to farming and our food supply
- Support the growth of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Extension and other agricultural research efforts at Penn State and Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine
Facilitate successful transitions of farms across commodities and generations
As I travel the Commonwealth speaking to farmers from all regions, one of their biggest fears is how to navigate the uncertainty associated with the industry and its regulation. Commodity prices are volatile, and farming families are often “asset rich, but cash poor.” We must support the next generation of farm families in Pennsylvania. It won’t be enough that agriculture is known as a “way of life”; our state must nurture a business climate that fosters farming.
I want to ensure our farming families have the means to transition their farms across crops and transfer ownership of their life’s work when that time comes. I also believe that preserving our farmland guarantees a future food supply and contributes to a healthier economy in the Commonwealth. To that end, I will:
- Support the elimination of school property taxes. In spite of existing homestead reductions, farmers are still susceptible to increasing local costs that can increase their property taxes from year to year
- Maintain the REAP tax credit for farmers who invest in conservation and environmental projects on their land
- Ensure that future Death Tax reforms will allow future generations to take over family farms without regard for incorporation for tax purposes
- Continue state support for FFA and 4-H programs to ensure that farms are passed on through generations
- Pursue and publicize opportunities, especially startup loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for beginning farmers. Explore and help enable transitioning on farms to new and more economically viable commodities and enterprises
- Advocate to sustain federal funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to help specialty crop producers balance the uncertainty of production with product improvement and consumer access
- Continue the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, a critical partnership between all levels of government and non-profit organizations, to protect prime Pennsylvania farmland. To date, over 5,000 farms totaling almost 550,000 acres have benefited from conservation easements
Reduce Harrisburg’s oppressive regulatory burden
Dwight Eisenhower once observed, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.” President Eisenhower strongly believed that when he governed in Washington and farmed near Gettysburg. The decisions made by Harrisburg politicians and bureaucrats affecting agriculture need to be based on the knowledge and commonsense of those who farm. I will ensure that farmers have a seat at the table when Harrisburg crafts regulations affecting their daily lives.
We must eliminate excessive rules and regulations that make it difficult or impossible for farmers to compete with producers in other states or countries. One farmer recently told me that regulations, particularly at the Department of Environmental Protection, require more than one year to do a project on land he already owns outright. He said, “I have to move heaven in order to move Earth!” This needs to stop. We should:
- Establish a single-entry point that helps agriculture producers navigate permitting processes across state agencies more rapidly and efficiently
- Regularly re-examine the administrative and operational burden placed on agriculture producers by existing regulations, and revise those that are outdated or serve no essential purpose
- Integrate prevention efforts against diseases such as Mad Cow Disease that are today addressed redundantly across our government wildlife, agriculture, and our public health bureaucracies today
Promote Pennsylvania agriculture externally and collaboration internally among our production, agribusiness, and food industry sectors
Few if any segments of our economy are more interdependent than agriculture, agribusiness and the food industry. Innovations, efficiencies, and achievements of one sector produces economic advantages and sustaining business benefits for the others. Together they achieve and grow; separately they can fail and shrink. As Governor, I will ask those industry sectors to get together cooperatively and identify how Pennsylvania’s state government can create more innovation, efficiency and economic growth among all in the industry. We must jointly develop an agenda for innovation and resurgence in Pennsylvania.
One important element of my economic growth agenda for Pennsylvania is to reimagine the Governor’s role as the Chief Marketing Officer for the Commonwealth. After all, if the Governor will not personally advocate for Pennsylvania businesses, who will? Our farmers must compete nationally and globally. I will interact with our Congressional delegation and federal agencies when emerging issues or problems threaten the future for farm families.
Agricultural concerns are complicated and diverse. They include federal regulatory overreach, foreign trade, Farm Bill decisions, farm labor shortages and threats of invasive species, including the Spotted Lanternfly. As Governor, I will partner with farm families to advocate for policies and pathways that preserve and advance Pennsylvania best interests.
Pennsylvania has been and must continue to be at the center of the agriculture industry in America. With all the blessings we have in the Commonwealth—fertile soil, proximity to markets and transportation, and a hardworking people with incredible expertise—we have all the tools we need to grow agriculture in the Commonwealth. I invite all of you to play a part in crafting the future of Pennsylvanian agriculture.