LEWISBURG — State and local officials took part in three regional meetings on Friday to discuss continuing agriculture issues in the area and across Pennsylvania.
State Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, hosted one of the meetings at the Silver Moon Banquet Hall in Lewisburg. Members of the agriculture and agribusiness communities across Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Union counties joined him.
State Rep. David Rowe (R-85), along with Union County Commissioners Jeff Reber, Preston Boop and Stacy Richards were in attendance.
The meeting featured panelists from Penn State Extension, a modern educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses and communities.
“The discussion is designed to listen to concerns and answer questions on how to improve agricultural conditions throughout our region,” Yaw said.
Yaw said the meetings are intended to create a friendly dialogue and exchange of ideas.
“Farms have to be part of the solution,” Yaw said. “Farmers can’t do it alone.”
According to the Nature Conservancy, farming Pennsylvania has 52,000 farms and 7.3 million acres of farmland. Agriculture accounts for approximately $83.8 billion in direct economic output, 280,500 jobs, and $10.9 billion in earnings.
Yaw said he is meeting with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the state’s Department of Agriculture soon to discuss how money can trickle its way to local farms.
Yaw said broadband internet is a collective issue in his district.
“When you cut through everything, the number one complaint I hear about is broadband,” Yaw said. “Broadband affects farmers, it affects schools, everything that you do. It’s a big deal.”
Boop said the panel discussion was very thorough.
“I thought the panelists really put a broad perspective on a multitude of things it takes in agriculture that’s not talked about,” Boop said.
Mark Madden, client relationship manager for area three of Penn State Extension, said inflation is hitting farmers hard.
“Every expense a farmer takes on will be higher than last year,” said Madden.
Boop said the big thing burdening farmers is the costs of fuel, seed and pesticides.
“All of those things are driving agricultural costs up the chart,” said Boop.“The Inflation Act is not going to curb the inflation.”
Boop said Union County has a grain deficit.
“We have to import corn and soybeans into Union County to feed animal operations providing food and for dairy industries,” Boop said.
Higher transportation costs, Boop said, create more problems.
“It’s a whole multitude of things,” he said.
Panelists also spoke about apprenticeships for students to gain agricultural experience, to transition them into the workforce and provide the industry with the workers it needs to continue.
“Our industry like any industry is in need of more young people,” said Phillip Clauer, associate teaching professor and 4-H youth poultry coordinator.
Clauer spoke about apprenticeships for students to gain experience in the area of agriculture to transition them into the workforce. He said the extension recently received grant money for that program.
“It’s something to watch for,” Clauer said.