Gov. Tom Wolf, presiding over a cavalcade of bands, livestock, farm equipment, agriculture royalty, and volunteers at the opening ceremony of Pennsylvania’s 100th Farm Show Jan. 9 touted the state agriculture industry’s ability to meet food demands and to strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy.
“Agriculture is a tremendous resource that fuels our economy,” said Governor Wolf. “Pennsylvania is already a national leader in commodities like milk and mushrooms, apples, eggs and hardwoods. These goods generate billions of dollars for our economy and employ tens of thousands of people.
“I envision a Pennsylvania agriculture industry that builds on our existing strengths and expands to meet growing demands for food year round. But to do that requires new investments in technology, in market development, in education and workforce development, and in improving access to food. It requires us to be vigilant on matters of food and animal safety, as well as plant health, and controlling against invasive threats. These are priorities for my administration, and we’re making great progress, which people can see firsthand here at the 100th Farm Show.”
Since taking office, the Wolf administration has taken steps to launch new agricultural operations and expand existing businesses; open new markets; safeguard Pennsylvania’s food supply; protect against emerging invasive species; and develop a workforce capable of filling tens of thousands of job vacancies in the agriculture and food industries over the next 10 years. Among other things, the state Department of Agriculture under Governor Wolf has:
- Prepared Pennsylvania to protect against the threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza by developing an emergency response plan, encouraging greater biosecurity, and securing $3.5 million in dedicated funding for planning and response;
- Worked with the U. S. Department of Agriculture to secure nearly $3 million in funding to combat the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive insect found for the first time in the country in Berks County;
- Helped farmers with transition planning and assistance, whether from generation-to–generation or from conventional practices to organic crop production;
- Invested in young beginning farmers through the Next Generation Farmer Loan Program, as well as Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loans;
- Begun to tackle the problem of Pennsylvanians being at risk for hunger by signing an executive order to coordinate Pennsylvania’s food and nutrition programs and securing additional funding for the first time to implement the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, which would provide Pennsylvania-sourced commodities to the charitable food system;
- Placed a renewed focus on meeting Pennsylvania’s obligations to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, while taking steps to ensure farmers receive full credit for the conservation measures they already have in place; and
- Initiated the development of a 10-year strategic plan for the state’s agriculture industry, in conjunction with agricultural stakeholders, to discern challenges and opportunities for the industry and position it for continued success.
“It is an exciting time to be in agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “People are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from. We’ve tried to illustrate the connection between the work of producers on the farm and the food we enjoy three times a day at the dinner table. That is a major theme of this year’s Farm Show. And we’re showcasing how the state is making considerable progress in meeting Governor Wolf’s charge to capitalize on the tremendous resource that is Pennsylvania agriculture.”
Following a tour of the Farm Show, which included stops at the show’s new Farm-To-Shelf display, meetings with leading farm organizations, and a stop at the food court, Governor Wolf and Secretary Redding participated in the official opening ceremony. The ceremony included performances by the Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Drill Team and the Harrisburg High School Marching Band. It also featured the Journey of Agriculture parade, which chronicled the progress made in agriculture since the first Pennsylvania Farm Show in 1917.
The 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show, themed “Our Commonwealth’s Blue Ribbon Experience,” runs today through Saturday, January 16, and features special exhibits that chronicle the evolution of the show and the development of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, as well as the traditional competition, exhibition and food found at the annual state agricultural showcase.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the nation’s largest indoor agricultural event, featuring 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and 300 commercial exhibitors. According to a report issued by the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau, the 2015 show had an estimated economic impact of $95 million to the south-central Pennsylvania region, supporting more than 18,000 jobs over the course of the week-long event.