John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
January 11, 2024
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that the USDA is investing $26 million in Pennsylvania agriculture under the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) program.
“Do what you need to do with processors and producers and shippers and people in the middle of the supply chain to strengthen that supply chain,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack made the announcement at the Pennsylvania Farm Show during the Public Officials Day luncheon, which drew public fficials from communities across the state.
“We understand that this funding is critical,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said of the grant money. “It’s going to help us run projects that ramp up food processing and distribution all across the country.”
Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said the investment will, in part, address “the issues of economic growth and opportunity for small and underserved farms” in the state.
Vilsack emphasized the importance of small farms in the future of U.S. agriculture, and said that he thinks Pennsylvania will be at the “epicenter” of providing a better future for the industry.
“When you shrink opportunity in rural America, you shrink the population of rural America,” Vilsack said.
Grant applications will open Jan. 15 and will close March 30. Applications will be reviewed by an independent panel.
Shapiro said in the coming weeks the state will outline the economic strategy for Pennsylvania that he announced in September. The governor said agriculture will play a key role in the plan.
“I wanted to announce to you here today that agriculture will be one of the four pillars of opportunity here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said. “We are betting on ag for the future.”
He added that agriculture often gets left out of conversations about economic growth and opportunity. “On our watch, that is no longer the case in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.
The agricultural industry supports 593,000 jobs and contributes $132.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy every year, according to Pa.gov.
Shapiro thanked farmers for educating him on the issues most important to them, saying the stories they shared with him helped put in place investments in specific areas of need for the agriculture community.
Also at the Farm Show on Wednesday, lawmakers from the state Senate and House Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee met for a hearing to discuss the five-year impact for the Pennsylvania Farm Bill.
“The bottom line of the hearing was about the fact that Pennsylvania is the only state in the entire United States that has a farm bill,” state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinksi told the Capital-Star following the hearing. Pashinski, the Chair of the Pennsylvania House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said that in the five years since the PA Farm Bill was first signed into law it has “done overwhelmingly well.”
State Rep. Dan Moul, Minority Chair of the Pennsylvania House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said the Commonwealth has a lot to be proud of.
“Agriculture is our number one industry in the state and we need to support it,” Moul told the Capital-Star.
For those interested in learning more about the grant program, visit the AMS Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure website.
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