Pa. Farm Bureau focus: economic challenges

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Rick Ebert
Rick Ebert, western Pa. dairyman and Pa. Farm Bureau president

HERSHEY, Pa. — Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) says a perfect storm of low commodity prices, retaliatory trade tariffs and poor weather conditions, have made it significantly harder for Pennsylvania farmers to turn a profit.

“Farmers across the board are facing economic difficulties as the prices they receive for soybeans, corn and milk continue to fall, while an extremely wet 2018 has reduced yields and resulted in lower prices due to quality issues, such as excess crop moisture and sprout damage,” said PFB President Rick Ebert, during the state’s largest farm organization’s 68th annual meeting Nov. 12-14 in Hershey.

“Milk prices are mired in a four-year tailspin putting many dairy farmers in the unenviable position of selling off their cows or going further in debt.”

Need farm bill

Ebert, who is a full-time dairy and crop farmer from Westmoreland County, notes that the problems experienced by farmers this year has put a spotlight on the need for swift passage of the 2018 farm bill.

“Without crop insurance assistance provided through the farm bill, many farmers would be in even worse shape, incurring devastating losses that could threaten their livelihood,” added Ebert.

“We need members of the House and Senate farm bill conference committee to finalize a compromise bill, get it approved by Congress and signed by the President before the end of 2018.”

Farm Bureau is also encouraging the Trump administration to work swiftly to engage in new free trade agreements and to resolve existing trade disputes with China and other countries, including Canada and Mexico, which are still imposing retaliatory tariffs on American products despite the recent United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“The export market plays a major factor in determining whether many Pennsylvania farmers are profitable or not, regardless of whether any of the food they produce ever leaves America,” Ebert said.

He added, during 2019, Farm Bureau will be intensifying its efforts to identify and promote opportunities, programs and policies to increase agriculture sales both foreign and domestically to generate additional farm income.

Distinguished service award

During the annual meeting, the  Pennsylvania Farm Bureau presented retired Berks County farmer George Moyer with the 2018 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.

In selecting the 85-year-old Moyer as the award recipient, the judges cited his more than six decades of commitment to the agriculture industry and Farm Bureau. Over that time, Moyer earned the reputation of being a farmer who communicated directly with politicians and community leaders to address and resolve problems.

Moyer was named a Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer in 1979 and held numerous positions during his career, which included serving on the Governor’s Ag Research Funding Board, as a member of PFB’s state board of directors, as vice president of Berks County Farm Bureau and as a member of the Berks County Cooperative Extension Board for 18 years.

Local leader

Columbia County farmer Delroy Artman received the PFB’s Distinguished Local Affairs Leader Award.

The judges specifically cited Artman’s involvement in multiple local affairs projects, including the successful Ag Safety Day. Artman assumed a leadership role in organizing the joint venture between the Columbia County Farm Bureau and the county’s 4-H and FFA members.

Artman, who is a past president of the Columbia County Farm Bureau, grows corn, soybeans, wheat and hay on about 800 acres near Berwick.

Ebert re-elected

During the annual meeting, Rick Ebert was re-elected president to another two-year term.. Ebert, who has served as president of the state’s largest farm organization since November 2014, ran unopposed.

Ebert, who owns Will-Mar-Re Farms in Blairsville, served as vice president for 10 years, before being elected to the top position.

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