ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. — Despite the struggles in the dairy industry and difficult economic times, government officials and Penn State’s leaders remain hopeful about the future of agriculture.
About 700 agricultural producers and professionals gathered during Ag Progress Days for the Government and Industry Luncheon Aug. 19.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff reflected on the tough economic times of the agricultural industry and especially the challenges dairy farmers are facing. He also stressed the importance of technology.
“I attended a meeting last month where I heard there are three numbers we need to remember — 50, 100 and 70,” he said.
By the year 2050, demand for food in the U.S. will have increased 100 percent. That demand will be 70 percent met by advancements in technology, he said.
Penn State will play an important role in those advancements, said newly appointed College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Bruce McPheron.
His comments focused primarily on the research efforts and initiatives of the College of Agricultural Sciences. McPheron said Penn State faculty and researchers are “nationally competitive,” and have agricultural producers’ best interests in mind.
“Farmers need advice and our advice to them has to be based on sound science,” he said.
Research has increased in areas such as organic and sustainable agriculture and specialty crops.
McPheron also talked about his support of the university purchasing property from the State Correctional Institution at Rockview.
The 1,100-acre property would allow Penn State to conduct further research in organic, sustainable bioenergy crops and reforestation, McPheron said.
He also believes the property might enable Penn State to produce food supplies to the campus or local community.
“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chart a new course in our food and fiber systems,” he said.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, the final speaker of the afternoon, voiced his continuing support for Act 38 Farm Ordinance Review, a law that enables farmers to request the attorney general to review local ordinances that may restrict agricultural operations or ownership.
Since the law was passed in 2005, 24 cases out of 50 have been accepted, Corbett said. Of those 24 cases, six are now in litigation, seven are in the process of negotiation with townships and 11 have been resolved.
Other speakers at the luncheon included Penn State University President Graham Spanier, who discussed the groundbreaking research in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who reflected on health care reform and the stimulus package.