The Farm Bill making its way through Congress has much to offer Pennsylvania agriculture, but much more needs to be done in the future. That's what U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., told students during this week's Penn State visit.
Casey noted that the Farm Bill now being negotiated has several provisions that are key for Pennsylvania. It includes a specialty crops subtitle, changes to crop insurance programs that will benefit the state's producers, and a fruit and vegetable snack program for school children that will enhance nutrition while benefiting growers.
Addressing a question about ethanol subsidies, Casey commented that biofuels, particularly ethanol derived from corn, could have unknown costs and unintended environmental consequences. "But that doesn't mean we should abandon the effort," he said. "Research is the answer to overcoming these obstacles and keeping us moving toward energy independence."
Casey noted his disappointment that the Farm Bill won't incorporate cost of production into the formulas for setting milk prices, a provision he fought for. "But there will be mandatory public daily price reporting, so that dairy farmers will have more of the current information they need to make sound business decisions."
Robert Steele, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, shared with Casey his concern over a failure by Congress to pass the Farm Bill by the April 18 deadline. Steele noted that it could endanger the continuation of agriculture programs addressing emerging issues such as Colony Collapse Disorder in honey bees. "Our capacity to conduct research on important agricultural, environmental and energy-related problems is largely a result of federal formula funds authorized through the Farm Bill," he stressed.