– Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding today said he is confident the Department of Agriculture can fulfill its core mission, despite a reduced level of funding in the proposed 2017-18 state budget, during his remarks as the featured speaker at Rep. Mark Keller’s (R-Perry/Cumberland) 11th annual Farmers’ Breakfast.
This week, Redding took part in budget hearings conducted by the House of Representatives and Senate.
“I was very pleased with the exchange we had with both the Senate and the House. But I have never been more challenged, both personally and professionally, to make all of this work,” Redding told the crowd. “Within the budget we have, the core mission of the department, which is public health and safety, we’re fine. We’re funded.”
Redding also spoke about workforce issues affecting the industry, including the low number of agriculture courses offered in the state’s high schools.
“There are 153 ag science programs in Pennsylvania. There are 500 school districts. You do the math,” Redding said. “Where does somebody learn about food and agriculture careers? That’s an issue I believe we should all be worried about.”
PennAg Industries Association was one of the breakfast sponsors.
“It is really nice to have a guy like Representative Keller in Harrisburg – a place where a lot of folks don’t know much about agriculture,” said PennAg Executive Vice President Chris Herr. “He is always on the front line and looking out for our interests.”
Other speakers included Dave Swartz, Penn State Extension district director; Jim Hershey, Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance president; Joe Arthur, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank vice president; Sally Tengeres, Perry County Conservation District manager; Melissa Stone, Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC vice president of economic development; and Libby Baker Mikesell, FFA state president.
“We had an impressive list of speakers this year, and I was especially pleased Secretary Redding was able to be with us,” said Keller. “They provided lots of good information that I hope those in attendance found to be useful.”
FFA members from Big Spring, Greenwood, Newport, Shippensburg and West Perry high schools also attended. The West Perry FFA performed a skit on consumer misconceptions about agriculture that won them first place at the 2017 Pennsylvania Farm Show. They will travel to Indianapolis to compete at the 2017 National Convention in October.
The breakfast was held at the Perry Mennonite Reception Center in Elliottsburg, Perry County, and attracted more than 200 people, which was the largest crowd yet.
Representative Mark Keller
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Andy Briggs