For much of Pennsylvania’s history of farming as played an integral part in the development of not only in the states economy, but the economy of the United States as a whole. This is still a role carried today as the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ranks among the highest in mushroom, apples, grape, dairy, and grape and winemaking, according to the 2017 US Census of Agriculture.
All this only adds to the concern as Pennsylvania farming news indicates a steady decline in the state’s agricultural sector. This, compounded with the rise in rural populations and the effect of climate change, places the states main source on income under fire.
In this article, we’ll review the history of farming in the state, what the Pennsylvania farming news says about the current trajectory of the state’s agriculture, and what is being done to address it:
History of Pennsylvanian Farming
In order to better grasp the effects of the decline of farming in Pennsylvania, one needs to full grasp the context of what agriculture means to this part of the USA. Historically speaking, farming as been the life blood of the state from since before it was a state to being with. The decline projected in Pennsylvania farming news will not only hurt its income, it will risk the eradication of a long-held tradition as one of the nations agricultural powerhouses.
Native Americans, like the Lenape and Monongahela, have been cultivating the for corn, beans, and squash. The mostly occupies the Delaware Valley and the Upper Ohio Valley. The have done this until German Settlement began in what is today known as Lancaster and York County which continued in the usage of the land for farming.
The period of settlement in Pennsylvania started from its founding up until the 1840s. It had become common among immigrants to acquire large stretches of land from Native Americans up until the early 1800s. Farming became an integral part of the settlers’ income though marketplaces early on were scarce. Families engaged in the trading of crops with other families and/or settlements in order to provide for their needs. Goods where also used for trade globally, especially as supplies in various European wars.
The Susquehanna River and Allegheny River served as the main routes for the transport of goods as suitable roads have yet to be built.
Civil War Farming
The Civil War sparked an increase in sheep and wool farming in the state in order to supply the demand for Union Army uniforms. This increase was short-lived though as its prominence in sheep and livestock raising halted with the end of the 19th century.
Farming During the Industrial Revolution
The creation of departments and agencies pertaining to farming and agriculture sparked widespread reform and development of rural Pennsylvania. Industrialization taking effect at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century revolutionized the farming practices. Tractors, refrigeration, and food packaging greatly improved productivity and the construction of a number of highways opened up more of the countryside for farming.
The Great Depression disenfranchised Pennsylvanian farmers the way it did all of the United States by the New Deal passed during the term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt greatly mitigated those effects.
Pennsylvania farming news of recent decades have continuously shown that farming, particularly dairy farming, is the largest industry in Pennsylvania. Farming is particularly common in the southeast region of the commonwealth, in counties like Lancaster, York, and Berks. 68 percent of Pennsylvania’s farming income is comprised of livestock raising. Christmas trees, ice cream, maple sugar, mushrooms, and fruits and vegetables are among the commonwealth’s other top produces as well as even having having an ergonomic workstation.
Recent Decline of Pennsylvanian Farming
Despite continuing to have one of the largest rural populations in the United States, recent Pennsylvania farming news has marked the steady decrease in the amount of farmland in the state. In a report by the Penn State’s College of Agriculture, 6 percent of the total farmland of the state has been lost of a 5-year period. The ramifications of this could include a lowering of statewide income, limited open land used for environmental protection.
Penn State News reports that with the land area of 7.3 million acres, the total number of farms in Pennsylvania has decreased by 10 percent as population growth and urbanization make farming less and less profitable.
As reported by witf.org. where population has been steadily increasing, especially in southeastern part of the state, farmland and preservations have been on the steady decline – concerning as this region makes up half of the state’s farmland. This is a shame as this part of the state boasts lowlands and planes that fosters rich soil ideal and a landscape ideal for agriculture.
Climate change has also threatened agriculture in reports among Pennsylvania farming news. Record rainfall in 2018, for instance, caused problems for farmers like the ones in southern York country – a winery’s grapes burst leaving them open to disease and possible causing the loss of as much as 3000 grape vines.
Climate change has also made the weather more erratic and hard to predict. Where before farmers could rely on predictable weather and seasonal patterns to time the growing of their crops, now wet and dry times are interspersed throughout the year. This damages crops and hurts the livelihood of thousands of farmers.
Despite all this, the dairy farming sector of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry is surprising maintaining even during the pandemic – Lancaster Farming reports. According to the Center for Dairy Excellence, dairy accounts for 85 percent of the income in Lancaster country and the coronavirus pandemic threatened that with a disruption of supply chains. Milk dumping on March and May of last year also occurred. Even with these setbacks, the dairy industry continues to post profits – though cost-saving measures apply and its still far from the industry’s normal.
Proposed Solutions to Curb Decline
A look at the latest Pennsylvania farming news shows that the state’s government in not sitting idly while the farming community is under threat. In this year alone, legislation and reforms have been introduced to curb the decline of the agricultural sector, protect the people’s, livelihood, and promote more environmentally-friendly development in the hopes of fighting climate change. These solutions include but are not limited to:
Farmland Preservation Program – Pennsylvania Farming News
As farms are essential in the process of putting food on the table, the state of Pennsylvania has recently placed under protection 2,600 acres on 30 farms in 16 counties. This is part of the Farmland Preservation Program which aims to protect the commonwealth’s farmland and has been doing so since 1988.
According to the Pennsylvania Pressroom, the program has so far placed 5,843 farm, amounting to about 594,457 acres in 59 counties, under the preservation program. This protects the farms from any amount of urban development – whether it be residential, commercial, or industrial.
The protection also extends to the forested areas and possible wildlife habitats that happen to be near the farms. It does this in partnership with environmental agencies to safeguard the environment and endangered species. One example is the David and Diane Friedman Farm, a 49 acre crop operation that happened to be of interest to the US Fish and Wildlife Services due to its proximity to forested areas – areas that served as homes to an abundance of species. This led to no only the farm by the area around it being placed on a preservation status.
Another notable preservation according to recent Pennsylvania farming news is the Keith Eckel Farm whose soil was classified as the most productive due to its situation along the banks of the Susquehanna river in Lackawanna County.
The PA farms under protection have proved their worth as the pandemic made farms and agriculture an essential industry. In times when crises can come out of nowhere, food production and agriculture has proven to be a worthy investment on future stability.
Regenerative Farming – Pennsylvania Farming News
Many advocates, including the new Biden Administration, claims that regenerative agriculture is part of the solution to the effect of climate change and the decline in the commonwealth’s farming. Part of the climate adaptation scheme is a focus on the soil of the crops and how good, healthy soil can act as a buffer against the extreme turns of the weather.
Plants naturally take CO2 out from the atmosphere and embeds it into the soil through the roots. Less CO2 in the air means less greenhouse gases. The Rodale Institute in Berks County is advocating for such practices like cover cropping. Cover cropping is a regenerative agricultural practice wherein farmers cover their crops with clover or rye after harvest in order to let them grow during the winter. This draws down carbon, suppresses the growth of weeds, and adds nutrients to the soil.
This is also an investment as it actually add to the times when farmers can grow and sell crops. Increased fertilization of the soil promotes growth spurts in plants and the covering of the soil through winter means that farmers can profit from their land even during the cold.
Other recent Pennsylvania faming news states that regenerative farming has been the subject of some doubt though on its ability to effectively hold C02 and provide the needed nutrients for plants so much to supplant artificial fertilizers. Scientists like Franklin Egan, Education Director at Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, argues that in studying 100 farmers who practiced regenerative farming, the ability of soil to hold c02 is much lower than some projections while its ability to hold nitrogen as been overlooked.
Proposed Marijuana – Pennsylvania Farming News
Lancaster Pennsylvania Farming news reports that 2 state senators have proposed a bill to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Introduced in February 24, 2021, the bill is 70 pages long and outlines the specifics of who can farm marijuana, who can use it, and how the crop could be regulated.
The plan is to allow the micro-cultivation of the crop by 150 farmers in the first 2 years then allowing supply and demand to drive growth afterwards. The cultivation though would be subject to a production cap also known as a canopy cap. It is to be governed by a Cannabis Board which fall under the joint jurisdiction of the Agriculture and Health departments.
The legalization and farming of marijuana could possibly open an avenue for revenue growth both for the state government in the form of taxes and licensing fees, and farmers cashing in on the latest cash crop. So far, the marijuana industry can garner the commonwealth at least 400 million dollars in tax revenue alone while also aiding in job growth. Pennsylvania farming news has also conducted fiscal studies on states like Alaska and California, the later of which earned 780 million dollars in tax collection from the marijuana industry in 2019.
A 2019 poll conducted by Franklin & March College found that 58 percent of the registered number of voters in the state said that they approved of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use – this includes two-thirds of Democrats and Independents, and 48 percent of self-described Republicans.
Proposed Investment on Animal Health and Food Security – Pennsylvania Farming News
Governor Tom Wolf has proposed a 2021-2022 budget which includes a 42.6 million dollar investment in veterinary systems and research in an effort to promote better animal health and food security. In investing in things like animal care research, sanitation, diagnostics, and the improvement of laboratory facilities ensures that animals, whether in farms being raised for food, or in homes as family companions, are at their healthiest.
We certainly hope the article was both informative and helpful to you in understanding the gist of current Pennsylvania farming news.
More developments no doubt are underway with regards to adversities, resolutions, and Pennsylvania farming news in general – developments that need to be tracked by anyone interested in the preservation and welfare of the agricultural sector. Making sure that this industry, with a long and storied history, stays robust and stable is an investment in our own long-term security.
Food is a necessity of life and the industry that puts food table should be thought of nothing less than the life blood of our society. Curbing the decline as reported by Pennsylvania faming news is of the utmost priority.