Pa. farmers take message to Capitol Hill

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WASHINGTON – The 2007 farm bill was at the top of the list of topics that more than 150 farmers from across Pennsylvania discussed with congressional representatives in Washington D.C. as part of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s 2007 National Legislative Conference in March.
Pennsylvania farmers strongly encouraged Congress to continue its support of agriculture by incorporating many of the basic concepts from the current farm bill into the 2007 farm bill.
Unique. Pennsylvania Farm Bureau said some changes are needed to deal with agricultural challenges unique to Pennsylvania and the Northeast.
“The make-up of commodities and the nature of farm enterprises differ from other parts of the country. A one-size-fits-all approach to farm policy does not work,” said Carl Shaffer, state president.
Pennsylvania farmers stressed the need for a safety net for all producers, including the nation’s dairy farmers, who have been facing extremely difficult times. During 2006, the premium paid to dairy farmers was well below the cost of milk production.
Specialty crops. Pennsylvania Farm Bureau called for the inclusion of specialty crops in the farm bill.
“Funding for specialty crops, such as fruits and vegetables, needs to be incorporated in the 2007 farm bill with funding focused on research, safety, nutrition, marketing, competitiveness and sustainability,” Shaffer said.
Conservation efforts are also important.
“We believe it’s critical that conservation programs be directed toward production agriculture. We want to make sure that farm bill funding helps farmers establish practices that improve the environment, without taking fertile farmland out of production,” Shaffer said.
Strength. Farm Bureau noted that the 2002 farm bill, which is set to expire in September 2007, strengthened the U.S. economy by encouraging more than $62 billion in agricultural exports in 2005. In addition, current farm programs enable the U.S. to export production from one out of every four acres of farmland.
Farmers also discussed other issues with lawmakers that directly impact the profitability and future of farm families in Pennsylvania including immigration reform (that includes a viable and legal guest worker program) and reform of the alternative minimum tax.

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