WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has secured the inclusion of several provisions in the new Farm Bill to support Pennsylvania agriculture jobs, strengthen rural communities and protects the industry from harmful Chinese trade practices. The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry approved the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 in a bipartisan vote.
“Agriculture is the largest sector of Pennsylvania’s economy, so I’m proud that the new Farm Bill will contain several initiatives I have championed to spur job growth in the industry and strengthen our rural communities,” said Senator Casey. “The new farm bill will ensure our farmers and foresters are on a level playing field to compete and create jobs in Pennsylvania.”
Specifically, Senator Casey secured provisions to:
Protect PA Honey Industry: Senator Casey’s amendment directs USDA to work with the FDA toward the development of a standard of identity for honey, a tool which will promote honesty and fair dealing and serve the interest of consumers and Pennsylvania’s honey industry. The majority of our honey is imported, but because there is no standard, contaminated, low-quality honey continues to pass through customs and undercut our domestic product. Pennsylvania is a major player in the honey industry. Honey bee pollination can be directly attributed to the production of about 60 million dollars of agricultural produce in Pennsylvania annually. The industry also has a long history in Pennsylvania. Dutch Gold Honey, a packer established in 1946 in Lancaster, is the largest family-owned honey company in the United States and is the originator of the idea for the squeezable honey bear.
Boost the Forestry Industry: Senator Casey’s amendment would allow greater inclusion of wood-based products in the Biobased Markets Program, which promotes the use of bio-based sustainable industrial materials. Senator Casey’s amendment would allow greater inclusion of wood-based products in the Biobased Markets Program, which promotes the use of bio-based sustainable materials. Revenues from Pennsylvania's forest products industry exceed $5.5 billion annually. Over 10% of the state's manufacturing workforce is involved in the forest products industry. Every dollar paid to a timber owner for trees ultimately generates, through manufacturing, more than $17 worth of economic growth.
Support PA Dairy Farmers: Senator Casey’s amendment would require the USDA to thoroughly examine if the dairy market stabilization program is working, and if it is not working, make recommendations on how to fix it. Senator Casey’s amendment would require the USDA to thoroughly examine if the dairy market stabilization program is working, and if it is not working, make recommendations on how to fix it. The dairy industry annually generates more than $1.6 billion in on-farm cash receipts, which represent about 42 percent of Pennsylvania’s total agricultural receipts.
Support Organic Farmers: Senator Casey’s amendment would allow bring organic producers closer to being able to participate in an organic foods promotion program. The organic industry has grown exponentially from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $29 billion in 2010, with an annual growth rate of 19 percent from 1997-2008. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Pennsylvania is ranked 6th in number of organic farms with 775 and 5th in sales at $58,293,000.
Help Farmers Address Water Quality: Senator Casey’s amendment helps farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed participate in conservation programs so that they can help the region meet water quality standards. Senator Casey earlier introduced the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Fairness Act, that would aid farmers and foresters in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Aid Food Banks: Senator Casey’s amendment clarifies the authority of the USDA to purchase food from American farms for food banks. Food banks have experienced a steep drop off in the flow of USDA commodities in recent years at the same time that need reached unprecedented levels. Since the 2006-07 fiscal year, Pennsylvania has seen a 43.9% increase in the need for food assistance.