Political leaders praise Pa. agriculture


ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry has a lot to look forward to, particularly in the area of renewable energy, according to Gov. Edward Rendell.
In a speech highlighting agricultural milestones and recent achievements, Rendell spoke to a crowd of nearly 900 Aug. 16 at the state’s Ag Progress Days.
The governor said building Pennsylvania’s renewable energy industry will benefit farmers by opening new markets, as well as encouraging economic growth. He pinpointed cellulosic ethanol – ethanol made from grasses and agricultural waste – as a potential focus for the state’s renewable energy efforts.
“Cellulosic ethanol could be the jackpot for Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry,” he said.
The key. U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum also spoke at the event, saying farmers have the ability to help the U.S. become self-reliant in meeting energy needs. By keeping American money in the U.S. and not sending it overseas to pay for oil, the senator said foreign terrorists will be weakened.
“You are the key to making sure they don’t have the resources to do what they want to do,” Santorum told farmers at Ag Progress Days.
Additionally, the state has developed a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which has been recognized as the most innovative program of its kind, Rendell said.
Rendell and Santorum also pointed out several other positive notes for Pennsylvania’s agricultural future.
The Center for Dairy Excellence is enhancing the state’s agricultural industry through education and farm management techniques. It also works to make the state’s dairy industry more profitable.
Funding. Agriculture has also benefited from the First Industries Fund. This $150 million fund has provided $32 million to agriculture in low-interest loans, loan guarantees and grants matched by more than $94 million in private investments.
The Center for Farm Transitions helps keep farming alive by providing resources to people who want to start farming, farmers who want to change to a different type of farming and families looking to pass the farm on to the next generation. The center also focuses on the needs of Pennsylvania farmers who will be retiring in the next 10 years.
The governor also spoke about the Agriculture, Communities and the Rural Environment Act, which eliminates illegal ordinances that obstruct farming and help farmers avoid court costs. The act aims to improve the environment, as well.
Rendell said Pennsylvania has taken a lead in animal health issues such as avian influenza and bovine spongiform encephalopathy. In 2006 alone, the state has conducted 300,000 tests for avian influenza.
More benefits. The state’s crop insurance program and its farmland preservation program are two other ways Pennsylvania is working with the agricultural industry.
According to Rendell, Pennsylvania has more acres of farmland preserved than any other state with 300,000 acres of permanent agricultural easements in 2005. Today, there are 328,000.
In addition, Santorum said the government is working with farm groups to make farm-friendly changes in the next farm bill.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at jskrinjar@farmanddairy.com.)


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