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Sec. Russell Redding and David Jaindl look at a field of soybeans that Jaindl Farms is currently transitioning to organic.

OREVILLE, Pa. — Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding joined Rodale Institute and other stakeholders June 12 at Jaindl Farms in Lehigh County to announce a new consulting service for producers transitioning to organic, and to highlight the resources available for organic agriculture in the proposed PA Farm Bill.

“Pennsylvania’s partnership with Rodale and the proposed investments under the PA Farm Bill will provide a new opportunity to producers and consumers alike,” Redding said. “By increasing access to resources and technical assistance, farmers will be able to more easily expand and diversify their operations and consumers will have more options at the farmer’s market and grocery store.”

The PA Farm Bill, a package of legislation 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 will provide for 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.

The organic agriculture component of the legislation would make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state by further enhancing the growth of the organic industry. Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, has introduced SB 623, which would establish the Pennsylvania Preferred Organic Program as part of the existing Pennsylvania Preferred Program.

“Consumers continue to demand local products, including organic products. This new program would be voluntary for organic producers and those producers interested in transitioning to organic production,” Schwank said. “This program would not compete with other Pennsylvania producers but would instead further enhance Pennsylvania’s brand recognition and ensure the PA Preferred trademark is leveraged fairly across all production methods.”

Under the legislation, the Department of Agriculture would administer the program, which would encourage producers of Pennsylvania-produced organic agricultural commodities to meet or exceed USDA National Organic Program standards.

Rodale Institute plans to provide consulting services free to any Pennsylvania farmer interested in transitioning to organic.

“This is an opportunity for Pennsylvania farmers. Family farms can make a living on the organic price premiums, while protecting the health of our soils, air and water, and providing healthy, nutritious foods to our families,” said Jeff Moyer from Rodale. “We’ve been working on research for decades — helping farmers deal with pests, diseases, weeds. Now we can do more. Transitioning to organic isn’t just about not using pesticides. Farmers need education, mentorship, one-on-one coaching and advice to make the switch.”