Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s number one industry and plays a key role in economic development of communities throughout the 5th District and the broader Commonwealth.
Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s number one industry and plays a key role in economic development of communities throughout the 5th District and the broader Commonwealth. The Fifth Congressional District is home to a diverse array of the state’s agriculture industry, including: dairy; grains; vegetables; various specialty crops; cattle; poultry, equines; wineries; and a well defined timber industry.
As a descendent of a long line of dairy farmers, I am proud to be an active member of the House Agriculture Committee, where I serve as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, & Forestry. Since 2010, the Committee has been holding hearings and gathering information for a new farm bill. As Washington continues to get its fiscal house in order and balance the budget, I look forward to continuing to work with my House colleagues, constituents and the agriculture community to improve federal policies that govern our nation’s agricultural sector and ensure the continuation of vital research and development of new technologies and processes that will assist our family farms into the 21st century.
Rural Development: Rural Development is one of my top issues as a Member of Congress and as a Member of the Agriculture Committee. Creating jobs and expanding technology, such as broadband and cell phone coverage, is a major challenge that must be met in order to improve and sustain rural Pennsylvania.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a variety of programs that are extremely beneficial to rural America; and my offices in Bellefonte and Titusville work with our constituents, local governments, and community organizations to help them receive this assistance in the form of grants, loans and technical assistance. For more information, please contact my Titusville office at (814) 827-3985.
Dairy: Dairy is the largest sector of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry. The industry has witnessed great difficulties in recent years, particularly in 2009, as profits were only about half the costs of production. Depressed prices have been disastrous for all producers – not just in Pennsylvania, but around the nation. Many dairy farms have faced financial hardship, taken on massive new debt, and - in some cases - have gone out of business.
Fortunately, Congress and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) have responded by lending assistance to the dairy industry. Three of the main programs enacted by USDA are: Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP), Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP), and the Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC). While these efforts have kept many farms from going under, these actions are temporary forms of assistance and additional, long-term reforms needed to keep milk prices stable.
As a part of USDA’s process for considering long term solutions to dairy price volatility, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack established a Dairy Advisory Committee to bring producers, processors, academia and economists under one umbrella to address these shortfalls. Through my nomination, I was pleased to see Tioga County Commissioner Erick Coolidge, a fifth generation and lifelong dairyman, appointed to the Committee and serve as a vice chairman. Commissioner Coolidge’s efforts helped to bring a strong “Keystone voice” to the Committee. The Committee’s report has been finalized and is accessible by clicking here.
In Congress, I also serve on the House Dairy Caucus, which is a bipartisan group of members with the common goal of improving dairy pricing and assistance, and reducing the volatility in the market. As one of the most active members, I have advocated for additional focus on this critical issue and will continue to press for the needs of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry as the House drafts the upcoming farm bill.
Timber: Pennsylvania is blessed with some of the finest hardwood timber in the world. For generations timber harvesting has been an economic engine throughout the region, while also serving a dual role of providing environmental and forest management benefits. In Pennsylvania’s Fifth Congressional District, we need to look no further than our own Allegheny National Forest (ANF) to see firsthand how national forests can successfully operate for multiple uses.
More than a billion dollars in hardwoods and hardwood products are exported from the United States each year. Among the many products, forest goods range from furniture and musical instruments to flooring. As these markets continue to expand, it will be crucial to ensure there is proper management of our national forests. As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, the Agriculture Committee and its Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, & Foreign Agriculture, I will continue oversight of trade promotion programs to ensure that our producers and craftsmen have legal access to international markets.
Timber harvesting has numerous environmental benefits because it is an important part of proper forest management. A managed forest allows for dead trees and wood waste to be removed from the floor, rather than lying idle and decaying. Similar to weeding a garden, this kind of removal allows for a healthier forest to emerge over time. A managed forest also makes for a stronger “carbon sink,” because healthy forests better absorb carbon dioxide than untouched forests. Managing forests creates a “win-win” situation. In addition to ensuring forest health, timber and wood waste can be converted into cellulosic ethanol, wood chips and pellets, and other forms of energy needed to meet our nation’s energy demand.
Because of Pennsylvania’s long history with the timber industry, I was proud to sign onto H.Res.81, a bill recognizing the importance of the hardwood industry. The bill had more than fifty cosponsors and was passed by the House of Representatives on September 15, 2009.
For more information concerning my work on agriculture issues, including legislative accomplishments and initiatives, please click on the links below and to the right, or visit my subcommittee's website by clicking here.
If you have additional questions on my views on agriculture issues, please contact my Washington, DC office.
I look forward to your feedback.