Pa. Farm Bureau hosts ag leaders during Farm Show
HARRISBURG, Pa. — At nearly closing time on the last, eighth day of the Pennsylvania Farm Show extravaganza, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau hosted several key agriculture leaders to review the future of agriculture.
Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson R-Pa; Chris Hoffman, President of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau; and Pennsylvania Representative Justin Fleming, D-Dauphin; praised Russell Redding, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, for the continued success of the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Redding thanked his staff and called attention to a few of the ongoing projects featured in the resilient roots, strategic investments and innovative people feeding progress of his agriculture department.
The number of century farms, urban infrastructure, ag equity, farmer veterans and youth education access highlighted the Show.
Noting that the Show is a showcase for Pennsylvania’s number one industry, Thompson observed of the attendees, “The majority are not from a farm.” He continued, “Most people today are removed from a farm—the Farm Show corrects that.”
Hoffman explained that the Farm Show brings farmers and consumers together. He stressed the importance of showing the public how the efforts of farmers provide American families with their food, fuel, and fiber.
Fleming pointed out that he attended the Farm Show as a kid, “Everyone has a role to play. The Farm Show proves agriculture is for everybody,” he added.
Thompson has been selected Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture by the House Steering Committee of the 118th Congress. He said that the Ag Committee had not had a chairman from Pennsylvania since the 1800s. He said he was fortunate to be a member on that committee earlier. When quizzed about his desire to serve on it, he tells the questioner, “I like to eat.”
Many people don’t understand agriculture, he related. “People are not aware of the extent of Pennsylvania agriculture, considering the number and amounts of commodities.”
Hoffman said the Farm Show creates opportunities for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau to fulfill its mission of education. Their Friends of Ag Foundation, which maintains a recurrent schedule of school visits, conducts science-based presentations and classes accredited by the State’s standards. Elementary students learn where food originates.
When asked prior to the Farm Bureau visits, most kids mention the name of their local grocery store. Thompson attested to their successful efforts at one of his events when a local schoolchild pointed out the difference between “soil” and “dirt.”
As a newly selected president of the PFB plus board member of the American Farm Bureau Foundation, Hoffman set forth several goals. PFB aims to generate the next group of farmers with science-based tools.
Also, they will work with the legislators to deliver their message, voice and watchdog. He acknowledged that Chairman Thompson helps with their mission.
During the questions period, when asked the greatest challenge facing the 2023 Farm Bill, Thompson quickly said, “Time.” Because several mandatory programs expire at the end of September, that creates an adoption deadline.
Redding responded to an inquiry regarding goals by naming the workforce issue as the top program, then infrastructure, and broadband service.
Regarding a question on the short and long-term labor supply, Thompson said the legal situation should be cleaned up.
Also, he pointed out that the current culture of small farm family size, and avoidance of certain jobs have altered the workforce.
Most young people today, he noted, have never stepped foot on a farm, and don’t realize that farmers are climate heroes.
They should understand that technology makes a difference.
Hoffman said the Farm Bureau continues to engage young farmers—that mission is one of their main initiatives slated for this year. Redding agreed that their ideas understand farming as a business.
Fleming cited that the Labor and Industry Department’s regional investment board has a program to place workforces in selected areas. Also, he pointed to similar efforts in Japan and Germany.
Thompson added, “Government should not tell farmers what they should pay workers and whom they should tire, and not require farmers to be in the hospitality business.” Other professionals can perform that service. In addition, programs such apprenticeships should be beneficial, along with a range of meaningful jobs. He acknowledged working with State and Labor because the Agriculture Committee knows the needs of agriculture.
Tommy Nagle, Vice President of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, moderated the panel.