Mark O’Neill, Media and Strategic Communications Director
For Immediate Release: November 19, 2019
|Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert discusses the changing nature of Pennsylvania Agriculture during a news conference in conjunction with the state’s largest farm organization’s 69th Annual Meeting in Hershey.|
(Hershey) - Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) says economic pressures are influencing more farmers across the Commonwealth to evaluate and make changes to how they run their businesses. More farmers are adding agritourism activities to generate new “on the farm” income or diversifying their operations to increase revenue to combat losses from depressed milk prices and stagnant grain prices.
“It wasn’t that long ago that many agriculture economists were urging farmers to become more specialized to increase
efficiencies in producing food and control production costs, but many farmers are now shifting their attention to becoming more diversified to create new revenue streams for the family farm,” said PFB President Rick Ebert, during a news conference at the state’s largest farm organization’s 69th Annual Meeting in Hershey. “Within the past year, my sons and I added sheep to what has been a traditional dairy and crop farm, and next year, we plan to add a high tunnel on our farm to grow vegetables to sell to restaurants in our local community.”
Farm Bureau noted that some of its legislative victories in 2019 have focused on creating more opportunities for young farmers, providing additional resources for farmers to run their businesses and offering more experienced farmers advice on how to transition their farms to the next generation.
“The new law that offers tax incentives for landowners who rent or sell their property to young and beginning farmers should open up more opportunities for a new generation, or the next generation, to gain access to land and pursue a career in farming,” added Ebert. “In addition, programs created through passage of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill should help farmers put together strategic business plans and succession plans, increase resources to battle agricultural threats (such as the spotted lanternfly) and identify ways to create more opportunities for farm families to overcome economic challenges.”
PFB continues to advocate for passage of several bills designed to remove obstacles from farmers looking to create new agritourism opportunities. House Bill 1348 would provide farmers with commonsense liability protection from civil lawsuits, while House Bill 1037 and Senate Bill 453 would create more affordable standards for farmers to use their barns for weddings and other social events, without compromising safety.
“Right now, farmers are having trouble finding insurance companies willing to issue them affordable liability policies to protect them from accidents occurring on farms hosting agritourism activities. HB 1348 would provide some commonsense protections by recognizing that farm visitors may have to assume some risk, such as when a person injures them self, because they tripped while running through a corn maze,” added Ebert. “Meanwhile, the so-called wedding barn bills would require a variety of safety provisions to be implemented as an alternative to barn owners having to install cost-prohibitive new sprinkler systems.”
Another growing concern among some Farm Bureau members is the anticipated financial burden they face in meeting water quality goals associated with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
“Many farmers have done an exceptional amount of work on their farms to meet nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reduction goals in the watershed, while other farmers are interested in doing everything they can to further improve the environment, but the reality is they need some economic resources to help meet those water quality goals,” continued Ebert. “It is no secret that many dairy and crop farmers have been struggling financially over the past six years and are doing their best to stay afloat. We need the Governor and leaders in the state General Assembly to develop plans that would provide additional financial support for farmers and professionals, who provide technical assistance to farmers, to bolster efforts to meet 2025 goals outlined under Phase 3 of the Water Implementation Plan (WIP).
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization,
representing farms of every size and commodity across Pennsylvania.