Meadville Tribune

Local News

February 21, 2014

State's agriculture boss touts opportunities in local talk

VERNON TOWNSHIP — “It’s a great time of opportunity in agriculture. It’s a great time for conservation districts,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture George Greig as he addressed Thursday’s annual dinner of the Crawford County Conservation District at the Days Inn.

Greig, a Linesville native who was appointed to the position in 2011, said the state has increased its funding for many programs which come under the agriculture department’s budget.

Prefacing his remarks, Greig said he uses the term “we” — not I — when speaking about the work of his department, noting it is a “team” effort between the state, legislators, governor’s office, county commissioners and supervisors — all working together.

One new program initiated by the state agriculture department is the “Pennsylvania Preferred” program, which was one of the items in the first bill he proposed after being sworn in. The program is a marketing tool, which identifies products and items grown or made in Pennsylvania. There is no cost to the companies participating and no cost to state taxpayers. Twenty-four companies participated in a conference about exporting products and now 18 companies have exported goods to six countries.

He noted many of the foreign countries are looking for protein and food to help raise the middle class people’s physical conditions. Fourteen percent of the exports are dairy products and 206,000 head of dairy replacement heifers have been exported. Heifers are those who are raised to replace dairy cows, but exports were possible when there was an excess number of the heifers.

Turning his attention to the 98th Pennsylvania Farm Show, the secretary noted 6,000 students are enrolled in the FFA program, which had its convention at the Farm Show. He said that represents future workers in ag-related jobs. “It’s very encouraging,” he said about the number involved.

Another area that has helped the agriculture community is the elimination of inheritance tax on family farms and small businesses. “It’s fantastic for the future of agriculture,” he said of the elimination.

In addition, Greig said the state Farmland Preservation Program continues to expand and now has 486,000 acres preserved — the most of any state in the country. Under that program, farmers are paid to enroll their farmland in the program, which means it cannot be sold for anything other than agricultural use in the future.

The state also has increased funding for county and community fairs this year.

Agriculture remains the No. 1 industry in Pennsylvania, Greig noted, and he is proud of the record of this state’s administration in supporting agriculture.

Asked about his future plans should Gov. Tom Corbett not be re-elected in November, Greig said he has not thought about it, noting he supports the governor. He agrees should a Democrat be elected, he would more than likely not remain as ag secretary.

Cambridge Springs Mayor Randy Gorske, who also is director of The ARC of Crawford County, was pleased with Greig’s remarks.

“It’s a diverse industry,” Gorske said in an interview with the Tribune of the responsibilities of that department. As an example, Gorske said while the department must inspect the amusement rides, it also is responsible for inspecting the safety of such things as the “haunted basement,” which The ARC operates each Halloween.

“I did not realize it came under the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,” Gorske said. “Everybody knows agriculture takes on so many faces in Crawford County. It’s great to have somebody local protect it so well.”

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