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Gov. Shapiro announces plan to prioritize agriculture in 2024

  • By Isabella Weiss/WVIA
Gov. Josh Shapiro talks to kids at the Farm Show on Jan. 10, 2024.

 Isabela Weiss / | WVIA News | Report For America

Gov. Josh Shapiro talks to kids at the Farm Show on Jan. 10, 2024.

Pennsylvania’s economy will center around agriculture in 2024, according to Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Shapiro, Pa. Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack celebrated several agricultural initiatives at this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show. They promised to create a more equitable industry for producers by giving them power through legislation and financial investment.

Vilsack announced that the USDA will invest $26 million in Pennsylvania through their Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI). It funds the middle of the food supply chain – everything from processing harvested foods to getting products to sellers, according to the USDA’s website.

He said the program protects small and underserved farms from market pressures, like having to prioritize their products’ quantity versus quality.

“So, it’s a broad array of flexible opportunities for investment – all of which are designed to create a local and regional food system so producers have multiple market opportunities. If they’re just playing in a commodity market, they’re going to get a commodity price,” said Vilsack. “But if they play in a local market, they get a better price. And we want more of that opportunity.”

Aside from financial backing, Shapiro announced that agriculture will be one of the state’s four pillars for their upcoming Economic Development Strategy Plan. The state hasn’t had an updated plan for around three decades, said Shapiro.

“Too often, [agriculture] gets left out of conversations about economic growth and opportunity. On our watch, that is no longer the case in Pennsylvania,” said Shapiro. “In the same sentence when we talk about biotech and manufacturing, we are now talking about [agriculture] and our farmers.”

That plan will be announced in a few weeks by Rick Siger, the Pa. Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) Secretary, according to Shapiro.

Shapiro also celebrated the fifth anniversary of the state’s Farm Bill. Pennsylvania is the only state to have its own.

“I want to take a moment to thank all of the lawmakers who are here today, who came together last year to fully fund our Pennsylvania Farm Bill in its fifth year, and make these critical investments in agriculture,” said Shapiro.

Pa.’s Farm Bill partially hinges on the nation’s Farm Bill. However, Congress failed to pass a new Farm Bill in 2023. Instead, they expanded their bill’s funding until Sept. 2024. The Pa. Legislature will only be able to make serious changes to its Farm Bill when Congress passes its own.

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