Redding’s remarks on the State of Agriculture, as delivered January 11, 2017, follow: (watch here)
everybody, and welcome to the 2017 Farm Show. Our 101st Farm Show
and we are very proud to host you here as we start a new century of Farm Show here
with this show. So thank you for being here.
A special note
of thanks to the members of the General Assembly who are here, we very much
appreciate the work that you do throughout the year, what you do to support
agriculture, and certainly look forward to the work here in this new session,
so to each of you, thank you for being here. On behalf of the Farm Show
Commission and all of the members of the Department of Agriculture, a special
welcome to you, it’s very nice of you to take time to be here, particularly
when the morning may have been a little slippery in spots across this
Commonwealth. So, thank you for being here.
This year, as
we begin a new century of Farm Show, we thought it was appropriate to use the
backdrop of “Our Commonwealth’s Blue Ribbon Experience,” to really talk about
both the bounty and certainly, the people of the industry and celebrate that as
we do throughout the week. But we also wanted to take it a step further, and
thought as we look at the future of agriculture that really is what we are here
to celebrate. We talk about history but we understand that it is about the
future and what happens here both this week and in the next year, in the very
short term. But obviously the long-term is very important to the future of
agriculture and the future of this Commonwealth, so we thought it would be
appropriate to take a moment during this important Public Officials Day with
you as our key partners in this address to engage you, to talk about it. And
I’ll sort of give you the forecast in this presentation, but just to say that
as we look at what we do in agriculture, this is not something that you can do
solely as a Department or even solely as a state government. Right? It is about
the partnership with each of you, and the piece that you hold is a key part in
So, what does
the future of agriculture look like?
It is bright in
Pennsylvania. It is bright in America for agriculture. I’ll lay this out here this
afternoon. But as Mike had mentioned in his opening comments, agriculture is
shifting amidst a seemingly ever-changing landscape economically, socially,
culturally, and politically. It is shifting in ways that, you know what, maybe
we could have anticipated, but what is experienced over the last couple of
years, I’m not sure that we could have anticipated the impact of technology,
particularly some of the global influences of agriculture both in the U.S. and
and changes, in my opinion, create tremendous opportunity for us in an industry,
and they are drivers behind our work at the department. And I want you to know
that we have taken on this task of a strategic plan and they are drivers in that
strategic plan as well. Many of you participated, as I look around, in the
listening sessions we hosted related to the strategic planning process. I want
to say thank you for doing that.
these sessions, we were reminded just how diverse agriculture is across
Pennsylvania, and it’s certainly on display this week.
We are certainly
diverse in terms of our outputs: 59,000 farms in the state; top five producer
in the nation of more than 10 agricultural commodities; 2,300 food processing
companies provide products for both this region of Pennsylvania, and around the
world. We have thousands of allied industry businesses and organizations that
rely on agriculture for their existence.
But we are
diverse in other ways, as well. We have agriculture sectors, such as the
hardwoods industry, that date back to the founding of the Commonwealth, and
newly burgeoning businesses such as aquaponics. We have farm operators that
have been here for generations, and farmers that are brand new to the industry.
We are a national leader in organic agriculture and remain a driver in the
nation’s dairy business. We see traditional farms growing on our rooftops and
vacant spaces, and we’re welcoming, increasing numbers of women and city
dwellers to our family.
is what gives us strength, we believe, as an industry, and strength as a
Commonwealth. It will also help us ride out the tough markets and will help us
shape the markets and guide our future. This diversity of thought and
perspective is what is required to move agriculture, here in Pennsylvania and
across the country, forward. We need that diverse thought. We need the
perspective that each of you bring to the table.
on this diversity, it is important to remind all those who consider agriculture
their business, their family heritage, their future and their passion, that
they have a friend in the Department of Agriculture.
The reality of
the industry we are in and what we are doing is that it will take all of us to
deliver on the needs of a growing world while ensuring that our efforts are
reinforced in the communities that surround our farms and agribusinesses.
Many of you
here have heard me say that in agriculture, we are in the relationship
business. The relationship between farmer and neighbor, the relationship between
farmer and consumer, between those who produce and those who add value, and as
demonstrated today, between the ag industry and public leaders.
relationships will continue to define our success. Yet the more I think about
it, the more I realize that we are also at critical intersections. Our industry
is at an intersection with citizens in vital needs like food, clothing and
shelter. Each and every day, multiple times of day, we impact the lives of
Pennsylvanians – often without them realizing it. That is a primary
intersection for agriculture, and is one that requires us to be great
storytellers, to bring to life what we do and the commitment we have to our way
of life and the business.
However, we are
also at an intersection on the natural resources front – caring for the land,
the water, the air and the overall environment that we live within. It’s
another storytelling opportunity because it isn’t always the way our industry
We choose to
capture this intersection in the butter sculpture this year with the theme “The
Culture of Stewardship.” This challenge is commensurate with the size of the
industry, requiring us to rise to the task to ensure the future of our industry
and showcase how agriculture will be the solution to some of these resource
challenges when we begin adding two billion people to this planet.
overlooked in conversations about agriculture is our role as an intersection in
we see new neighborhoods benefit from agriculture. In our urban centers and
cities, citizens are rediscovering the power of food to change lives. This is a
success story on multiple fronts. They are creating productive, open space that
community members can enjoy. There is locally grown food. Fresh food for
neighbors. We’re seeing young people step into new careers, to learn new
skills, experience in patience, and recognizing that the easiest day sometimes
in agriculture, is the day you plant something. Everything that day after is
work. That’s an important lesson. But they also learn about work ethic to
succeed in agriculture. And these gardens and farms provide a critical sense of
pride for those in these communities.
There are many
stories, from Extension, 4-H, FFA and local food banks and other partners that
bring this narrative to life. And they are important reminders that whenever
people eat and wherever they eat, agriculture is a cornerstone of their life.
And at the heart
of this tale of the intersections of agriculture is how interwoven it is to our
rural communities. Our rural communities and the contributions they make form
the very frame that supports the rest of Pennsylvania from agricultural
production to energy and economic contributions. They are filled with people
who can trace lineage back multiple generations and centuries, some that have
hollows and peaks and lanes named for their ancestors, and those who have just
arrived to pursue their passions and plant roots in a community that they have
Having grown up
in a rural area with a strong sense of place and history, I challenge all of us
here today that part of our work must be to tell the story of our rural
communities and the value they add to the complexion of Pennsylvania. This
means better understanding the value of agriculture, in terms of a workforce
and economic development, as an anchor for open space in many of the businesses
of the state, at the heart of the number of chambers of commerce across the
state, and as a potential new home for the young men and women and families
that may have gone to other areas to work and come home for opportunity.
Whether we are
developing new farms in town or working to support our farms in the township,
there is a group that is perhaps one of the most critical intersections of all,
and that is each of you, our public and elected officials. All of you here
today form the network and infrastructure that frames our agriculture industry.
Your work, which is often quietly done behind the scenes and without fanfare,
is incredibly important to our industry and to our commonwealth.
dependent on many things: the state of trade relationships, the opportunities
of new markets, adding value to products at the farm level and beyond, and the
intellectual capital of farmers and the agriculturalists.
At times, we don’t
pay much attention to these variables, and at times we are very protective of
the ones that benefit us individually the most. Yet the reality is that
agriculture has grown to become an industry where futures markets and farmers
markets are equally important to feeding a growing world.
What does that
mean to us?
It means that
we must have faith in each other and we must work together to create an
industry and an environment that we want. What is happening globally will speak
to what happens in Pennsylvania. We can wait to see what takes place or we can
find ways to be an active player in feeding a population where more than half
the humans on this planet are under the age of 30, including 90% of the
population of emerging and developing nations. We will increasingly face a
market full of dichotomies: the desire to grow, buy and promote local,
alongside the recognition that 95% of the stomachs in this world are someplace
other than the United States of America.
I know well
that agriculture has been incredibly good to us, and to the 12.7 million
citizens who call Pennsylvania home. Agriculture is an important part of our
heritage and history, but it is an even more critical part of our future. We
must keep the myriad of stakeholders involved in our industry, including the
customer and consumer, talking about the issues we face and the industry we
want to take shape, because it’s very easy at times to sort of walk away from
gentlemen, this is our prompt to take a broad view and stay engaged in the
conversation. How each and every one of us in this room speaks about,
represents, protects and grows Pennsylvania agriculture will define its future.
easy. But in reality, it means a lot of work to build a shared vision and consensus.
It means acknowledging that we are not in this alone, and building coalitions
and communities to support agriculture as a whole. It is a collective
challenge. It means getting beyond our own comfort zones of thinking about
agriculture in one very personal dimension, confined to the world immediately
around us by the jurisdictional boundaries that delineate the scope of our
this first hand over the last six years as chair of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture Biotechnology Advisory Committee on 21st Century Agriculture.
This committee had a broad charge from Congress and from Secretary Vilsack, to
look at the emerging interface issues of technology in crop production.
Each of the 23
members thought that we knew agriculture, but after six years of trying to
manage through some very complicated conversations about coexistence in
different production practices, I, and I am sure many others, have an entirely
new appreciation for the diversity of agriculture. It looks much different here
in the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania than it does in the San Joaquin
Valley of California. Agriculture looks different, but the big issues were, by
and large, the same.
While this was
a national conversation, we could just as easily say agriculture looks
different in south-central Pennsylvania than it does in northwestern
Pennsylvania. But the issues are the same.
was meaningful for all involved, because it forced everyone in the conversation
about coexistence to focus on the “co-” and move beyond their own existence. My
belief remains that there is room at and on the table for all of agriculture,
and we will need every voice available to help us work on the big, audacious,
wicked problems that we face both as a government, as a nation and as an
Yet I think the
struggle to better understand and articulate the value of agriculture as a
whole, has a very important reminder to all of us: while we struggle with
systems, we are frustrated sometimes by policies and politics, and at times feel
disheartened that agriculture isn’t valued in measures equal to what we
provide, I have and will continue to press that we must continue to have faith
in each other. Maintaining a strong, dynamic, forward-thinking, successful
agriculture industry in Pennsylvania means we must work together to create and implement
new ways to deliver on our promise to consumers.
This happens on
farms and communities and agribusinesses and in the capital. Adding value isn’t
just for commodities. We must all think strategically about what food and
agriculture look like as we move forward.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is committed to being your partner
in this. My view on our role is to help facilitate the strategic plan for
it contains must come from all of us. The plan will build on the major
listening sessions and the themes that we had identified.
They include creating
a positive environment for agriculture in Pennsylvania, where those in it stay,
and those who want to enter agriculture are welcomed; fostering a climate that
encourages entrepreneurship and innovation; addressing the urgent need to
develop the human capital needs of agriculture so businesses have the workforce
to compete and citizens have the skills for success; collectively communicating
the industry’s value proposition to society; and translating the role of
science in our practices and the benefits to them; and lastly, remembering that
our natural resources are finite, and successful production practices, not to
mention changing consumer preferences, are going to demand that we continue to
improve our conservation and stewardship practices.
you will hear more about this planning process and the themes. We know this
will take time, and we know that this will be a living document, evolving and
changing, to always remain relevant.
So the ask that
I have of each of you is two-fold. One, I ask you to think about what you want
agriculture to look like in Pennsylvania and back home. Number two, what is the
one action you can take in your community that could make a difference around
What does it
We have to find
where agriculture in our communities is. We have to be bold about those
actions, and where we want to go.
So in closing, I
want to ask each of you to be thinking about the two questions, the two prompts.
We need your input. What I’ve tried to do today with the help of the Department
of Agriculture, is to sort of lay out some of those issues that we see, that
we’re addressing, that each of us are holding as a piece of our work as a part
of our community. And I would hope that being here at the Farm Show, and the
backdrop of this Farm Show, be a collective reminder of what it is we have as
an asset, a great part of our history, and a critical part of the future.
But I don’t
think it stays here because you and I like it. It’ll stay here by the intentional
actions that we take back home, the intentional actions we take as a department
and as a government. We need your help to do that. That is the call. We need you
to take a hard look at what we’re doing. We will be tested. Some of that test
will come by way of our policies, some of it by politics, some of it by
budgets, and some of it a big measure will come from changes at the consumer
level. How do we respond to that?
So, take the
two questions I’ve asked you to think about agriculture – what does it look
like – and actions you can take, and look forward to continuing the
conversation of how it goes into the major themes, how do we bring people into
this industry that all of us appreciate as great value to us personally,
economically, and certainly to the quality of life here in Pennsylvania.
I am very proud
of agriculture and proud to serve in this role as Secretary. But I’ve come to
appreciate that my role is one of engagement, of listening, of trying to sort
through the big issues and make sense of where it is that we go and have a
vision for that. But that vision is informed by each of you and the
relationship that the industry has with you and the relationship this Department
has with you. So thank you very much for being here and I will end where I
began: with a simple thank you for what you do, for being part of the public
officials, for being in public service, and for all of the stakeholders who are
part of this great industry, thank you.