Today, we celebrate National Agriculture Day and the vital role agriculture plays in Pennsylvania and around the world. Agriculture has helped create jobs, grow business, and provide food, fuel and fiber for the United States and the world. The work of one farmer feeds 155 people, both domestically and abroad.
Pennsylvanians contribute greatly to the economic and cultural value of agriculture. Agriculture is the number one industry in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and it has helped to strengthen our state. With over 62,000 farm families and almost 8 million acres of farmland in our state, agriculture contributes $68 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy. The Commonwealth is a key producer of dairy products, as well as crops such as mushrooms, apples, grapes, peaches, cut flowers, pumpkins and Christmas trees.
Even as we celebrate the bounty that Pennsylvania’s farmers provide our economy, I am concerned that 805 million people globally suffer from chronic hunger. The Director of National Intelligence has identified a link between food and nutrition insecurity to instability and insurgency in some developing countries. It is clear that food security around the world contributes to our national security here at home. That is why I am working with U.S. farmers, private sector agricultural firms, non-governmental and faith-based organizations, and American universities to reintroduce the Global Food Security Act (GFSA), a bipartisan bill that will help address this important problem.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, I am proud to support Pennsylvania’s hard-working farmers, who play such an important role in supporting our economy and getting healthy, locally-grown food to our tables. I am committed to this time-honored tradition, and will fight to ensure Pennsylvania’s farmers continue to thrive.
Earlier this week, I spent some time in Lawrence County. On Monday evening I wrapped up my day by joining local farmers and constituents at the Lawrence County Fair. As I walked through the fair, I was able to meet many of the dedicated farmers and youth involved in this annual summer tradition. I saw firsthand the variety of exhibits that showcase the ingenuity and ongoing growth of the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania. I was particularly impressed with the Mobile Ag Education Science Lab. This lab travels to schools across the state, educating students on the agriculture industry. By providing a hands on experience, children are making the important connection between agriculture and the food on their table.
On Tuesday, I visited Ellwood City to see the work they are doing with Appalachian Lighting Systems Inc. Appalachian Lighting is a local manufacturer of high-efficiency LED fixtures. Through the use of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Ellwood City was able to increase their orders through Appalachian Lighting resulting in significant energy efficiency improvements for the Borough. This partnership is an impressive example of how these funds can be utilized to stimulate business, encourage cost saving improvements, and foster economic growth. My father visited Ellwood City often, and I know he too would be proud of Ellwood City and the great work they are doing.
On Friday, January 15, I joined York’s mayor, Kim Bracey, at the Market & Penn Street Farmers’ Market to announce that York City will receive $779,200 in federal funding for the city’s two farmers’ markets. The money will be used for restoration purposes at both the Farmers’ Market and the Central Market located at Beaver and Philadelphia Streets. During my visit, I met many vendors who stressed the important role the market plays in providing fresh, affordable and in-season, locally grown produce. I even had time to pick up some ham, apples and a sandwich for lunch. I’m proud to support this type of vital economic development project; it helps to make available healthy and nutritious foods, and I feel it will have a positive impact on the community.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is always an exciting time of year. I look forward to my annual visit and am never disappointed in the displays I see, people and their animals I meet, and of course the good food I get to eat. This year I was honored to be ask to speak before a group of over 6,000 young leaders in agriculture -- all members of Pennsylvania Future Farmers of America. They are dedicated, ambitious, and a very talented group of high school students who will help preserve our family farms, be inventive in agriculture practices, and keep Pennsylvania growing.