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In last week’s edition, Lancaster Farming asked a valuable question: “Why do you believe in dairy?”

What’s clear from the response is that dairy is an essential fabric that binds together Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry. It’s our past, it’s our present, and I firmly believe it will remain a part of our future. Yet belief is only meaningful if it inspires support and action.

When I returned to the department, it was clear that the dairy industry was in transition. A number of factors including production increases, fluid milk consumption decline, and changes in technology are all impacting the business of dairy.

In partnership with the Center for Dairy Excellence, we conducted a study of the growth and competitiveness of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry to help guide our decision and policies. This study affirmed our strengths — but also made clear that to remain competitive, we must compete at the farm level, in the marketplace, and as a commonwealth. This report and recommendation became the basis of our Dairy Development Plan, Dairy Investment Program, and the PA Farm Bill.

These reports, plans and initiatives provide a solid foundation for dairy and have helped galvanize public support, which has changed the narrative in our state capital about agriculture. They have strengthened agriculture, giving it the stage from which we can share the message about dairy in our state.

The message is also being carried to the fields on wrapped bales along highways and byways. I hear it from young dairy royalty who promote dairy with a renewed passion, offering new ways to support producers and consumers alike through the Choose PA Dairy, Goodness That Matters campaign.

I’m inspired by the tenacity and infectious enthusiasm of innovative farmers like Rynn Caputo of Caputo Brothers Creamery in Spring Grove, York County.

Caputo Brothers received a Dairy Investment Program grant because they are pursuing ideas that could secure a future for their family’s operation and our industry. Caputo Brothers is not alone in that quest, evidenced by the $5 million in grant funding awarded to 29 recipients in 20 counties across Pennsylvania seeking new paths forward.

I’m also inspired by those in the dairy community and farm families who, even under great stress, still treat each other with respect, civility and care. They demonstrate the finest qualities of the agricultural community.

It’s an incredible testimony. This Dairy Month our farmers — and the processors, the truck drivers, the veterinarians, the nutritionists, the suppliers, and others who support them — deserve our thanks. They also deserve our support and action.

That’s why Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly have championed the PA Farm Bill and other legislation and initiatives to strengthen dairy and the broader agriculture industry.

“I believe” are two of the most powerful words in the English language. I find those words that begin the FFA Creed to be both inspirational and aspirational and transferable to the dairy industry today. I believe in the future of agriculture, and of the dairy industry.

That creed acknowledges that the better things we now enjoy have come to us through the struggles of former years. Soon our present will become former years, too, and our dairy struggle will be remembered not only as painful times, but times in which we together laid a foundation for a brighter future — all thanks to a belief in the value of our dairy industry.

Russell Redding is Pennsylvania’s secretary of agriculture.