2009-11-26 / Local & State

Farm Bureau Focused On Economic And Environmental Challenges

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) President Carl T. Shaffer said farmers are facing numerous economic challenges as they strive to remain viable in a constantly changing and competitive industry. Shaffer made the comments during the 59th annual meeting of the state’s largest farm organization in Hershey, where hundreds of farmers from across the commonwealth are meeting to debate and adopt policies affecting Pennsylvania agriculture and rural communities.

“Farm income is significantly down in Pennsylvania and across the country. Our farmers, especially milk and pork producers, have suffered through record low prices while production costs remain high. Losses continue to mount and the future of many farms could be in jeopardy unless things turn around quickly,” said Shaffer.

Farm Bureau notes that dairy farmers have seen income drop anywhere from 35 percent to 50 percent over the past year, while struggling pork producers experienced a double-dose of bad news when already low prices plummeted as a result of the H1N1 virus.

“The initial mislabeling of the H1N1 virus cost the pork industry tens of millions of dollars. It also occurred at the worst possible time, because a major recovery had been projected for the summer of 2009. Instead of a recovery, pork prices dropped despite aggressive efforts by government, health and farm organizations to get the word out that people could not get the flu by eating pork products. As the flu season continues, we urge the media to correctly reference the flu,” added Shaffer.

Another area of concern for farmers is federal climate change legislation, which is commonly referred to as “CAP and Trade” legislation. Farm Bureau says a bill passed by the U.S. House and a proposed bill in the Senate fails to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale and that they would have little to no impact on global temperatures.

“The CAP and Trade bills would lead to higher fuel, feed and fertilizer costs for farmers. Fuel costs alone would jump by $550 million by 2020. Meanwhile, American consumers would also foot the bill, as energy costs for the average U.S. household would grow by as much as $1,870 per year. In addition, the size of U.S. agriculture would shrink by about 80 million acres. As a result, food prices would increase as more American farmland is converted from growing food to growing trees,” continued Shaffer.

Another issue of importance to Pennsylvania farmers is continued efforts to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Environmental Protection Agency has plans to impose substantial new regulations on agriculture to speed up attention to the bay.

“Farmers have demonstrated a willingness to do more as long as resources are provided to them and regulators consider the viability of farms as they move forward with Chesapeake Bay improvement plans. We want to be helpful rather than confrontational and are giving EPA decision-makers the benefit of the doubt that they do not want to send farms to the auction block,” added Shaffer.

PFB says despite mounting challenges facing farm families, there is still hope and optimism for the future. In fact, futures markets are projecting modest increases for agriculture in 2010.

“Farming has never been an easy profession and farmers have shown resiliency through difficult times. With a weakening U.S. dollar, exports of farm goods are expected to increase next year and that should mean additional revenue for farmers,” concluded Shaffer.

Hundreds of farmers from across the state attended Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s 59th annual meeting at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center from November 16-18, to set policy for the statewide organization on issues affecting farm and rural families.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization with a volunteer membership of nearly 47,000 farm and rural families, representing farms of every size and commodity across Pennsylvania.

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