Lancaster, PA – Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding visited the Lancaster Barnstormers’ Farm Show Weekend Saturday on the Planting the Seed Tour, an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to highlight career and educational opportunities in agriculture. Prior to throwing out the first pitch at tonight’s game, Redding addressed 150 area agriculture leaders, emphasizing the importance of investing strategically in building the skilled workforce the industry needs in the coming decade.
“Lancaster County’s agriculture industry feeds the nation and the world,” Sec. Redding said. “To maintain the county and the commonwealth’s position as a leader in the world’s agriculture economy, it’s crucial for both government and private industry make strategic investments today. By investing in a strong workforce through agriculture education and apprenticeships, we can ensure that the next generation is prepared for meaningful careers and equipped with the skills to meet the needs of agriculture employers.”
Pennsylvania agriculture is a $135 billion industry facing several challenges, including an aging workforce. Attrition and advancing technologies will result in a workforce deficit of nearly 75,000 over the next decade. The Planting the Seed Tour aims to engage and educate the next generation about the many career opportunities available in Pennsylvania agriculture.
Redding commended area agriculture leaders, noting that the state’s first initiative to address a growing demand for technicians to service high-tech agricultural equipment is the result of ongoing partnerships in Lancaster County.
He also discussed Pennsylvania’s competitive advantage, and some of the additional challenges the industry must tackle to remain competitive, reviewing an economic impact study released earlier this year, along with the department’s strategic recommendations for continued success. Those recommendations include: capitalizing on branding and marketing opportunities; expanding infrastructure, including processing and manufacturing capacity, broadband, and transportation; broadening workforce development and education opportunities; and diversifying products to strengthen markets and build resiliency.
Redding also outlined immediate and short-term strategies the department is undertaking in partnership with private sector partners to address the current challenges faced by the dairy sector.
Over the past three years, the Wolf Administration has invested more than $50 million in agriculture-related economic development projects; increased support for workforce development and agricultural education to help prepare students and workers for the thousands of anticipated job openings in the industry over the next decade; and signed historic legislation that has created new markets for farmers and lowered their tax burdens. The administration is also working to expand broadband access to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, creating jobs and improving infrastructure statewide, especially in rural communities.