SPRING GROVE, Pa. — Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding last week joined GIANT Food Stores and Troegs Independent Brewing to tour Caputo Brothers Creamery in Spring Grove, a Dairy Investment Program grant recipient, highlighting how the PA Farm Bill would help dairy producers diversify and expand their operations.

“I’ve been encouraged by the ingenuity of Pennsylvania producers and processors, including Caputo Brothers, who are looking to the future and creating new products and capacity for Pennsylvania-produced milk,” Redding said. “We know that the dairy industry has been facing some challenges of late, but our producers are innovative and resilient. The PA Dairy Investment Program is just one way we hope to help mitigate those challenges and help our dairy farmers find solid footing once again.”

The PA Farm Bill, a package of bills that provides support for and continued investments in the commonwealth’s agriculture industry, was modeled after the governor’s six-point plan to cultivate future generations of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry. The legislation would provide for the Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program to fund research and development, organic transition assistance, value-added processing, and marketing grants in support of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. This year, $5 million was awarded to 29 projects in 20 counties across the commonwealth.

Caputo Brothers was awarded a PA Dairy Investment Program grant to expand its cheesemaking operation to include aged cheeses. Caputo Brothers has established markets with Troegs Brewery and GIANT for their products, and this grant will enable them to meet an existing demand for artisanal cheeses. In addition to its 15 retail and wholesale distribution partners, Caputo Brothers currently supplies cheese to over 20 restaurants, from locations all over Pennsylvania to Tennessee, New Jersey, Las Vegas,and New York.

The PA Farm Bill would also invest in business development and succession planning, create accommodations for a growing animal agriculture sector, remove regulatory burdens, strengthen the ag workforce, protect infrastructure and make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state.

Other highlights of the legislation include:

Creating the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to serve as a resource to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan, or succession plan to ensure the best chance of success.

Incentivizing the transfer of preserved farmland to a new or beginning farmer through the Realty Transfer Tax Exemption.

Creating the Conservation Excellence Grant Program to offer financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement conservation best management practices.

Expanding the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) tax credits by $3 million to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.

Addressing issues within the animal agriculture industry — such as expanding processing capacity, transition assistance, technical assistance, food safety, and establishing industrial hemp as an approved animal feed — through the Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence.

Incentivizing Access to Meat Processing Inspections to encourage small or new producers by reimbursing federal meat inspection costs and subsidizing the first-time purchase of equipment needed for federal compliance.

Expanding the allowable width for the use of implements of husbandry on roads from 16 feet to 18 feet.

Engaging with agricultural and rural youth organizations to help increase knowledge and awareness of agricultural issues within the commonwealth through the Agriculture and Youth Organization Grant Program.

Improving childhood nutrition while increasing exposure to agriculture through the Farm to School Grant Program.

Ensuring a quick response to agricultural disasters — including utilizing animal or plant health officials to contain an outbreak, or providing an immediate response to a foodborne illness — through the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account.

Making Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state by further enhancing the growth of the organic industry.

Supporting the PA Preferred program and to bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program.

Creating the state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority horticultural crops like hemp, hops, and hardwoods.

For more information about the PA Farm Bill and Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, visit the Department of Agriculture website.

Lancaster Farming