Agriculture is our #1 industry in the 9th district. As a fifth-generation farmer, I understand the issues confronting our agriculture communities, however today, our present agricultural policies are certainly not working economically for farmers, they are not working for rural communities, and they are not working for the environment. They are only working for big agribusiness corporations that are extracting our rural resources for profit:
- Agribusiness corporations doing well today while smaller family farms are having to receive payments from the government to stay afloat
- Our rural communities are losing our most precious commodity, our children, as our local jobs recede with the increase of industrial agriculture in the midwest.
- Farmers are excited about and willing to grow industrial Hemp since it was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, but we don’t have leadership helping to create the processing facilities to bring the fiber from this plant to market
- Berks County was listed as an ideal site in a recent Cornell University study to establish a Cheese and yogurt processing facility, to help to utilize the excess liquid milk that is presently in the Pennsylvania Market. Where is the leadership to make this happen, and is it happening, because we (the farmers) are not hearing anything.
Why are small family-owned farms struggling
Why are big agribusiness corporations doing well today while smaller family farms are having to receive payments from the government to stay afloat?
- Because large agribusinesses are getting big payoffs during this era of difficult trade relationships that have upset long established markets for agricultural products.
- Tax dollars are going for subsidies to farmers who would otherwise be earning money from growing crops. These tax dollars could be contributing to the capitalist system for other needs.
- Our farms that are growing our foods are not able to contribute because they have been forced to sell their crops at a huge loss, all the while people who are hungry are seeing cuts in their SNAP benefits. These farm subsidies are adding to our (23 trillion dollar) deficit, a debt which is being passed on to our children and grandchildren.
Farms disappear – and with them the jobs
- For years the policy of the government has incentivized big ag and forced small family farms to suffer.
- We have watched family farms go up for sale for generations. As the farms disappear so do all the businesses, jobs and communities that are codependent with them. With one in five American children living in homes who are classified food-insecure, we know that our system of food production and distribution is not working.
- Our rural communities are losing our most precious commodity, our children, as our local jobs recede with the increase of industrial agriculture in the midwest. Small towns have been decimated with local businesses replaced with dollar stores, while our schools and medical resources have been diminished. Where do the children of our generation find work? (Sadly, Meth labs and an opioid epidemic abound in the 9th District, as we have lost so many jobs that once sustained our communities.)
WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THIS?
Protect rural areas for future use
- We can change the direction of this flow away from rural prosperity by changing our national farm policies. One of the major roles that farmers and ranchers provide our nation is to protect rural areas for future use.
- In addition to providing food and energy, they also can provide forests, animal habitats and renewable energy generation.
- Farmers have an enormous potential to address climate change. With the right support and policies, we can have rural communities that are thriving economically and ecologically.
- By changing policies, we can transition away from a consolidated industrial model to one that will rebuild our rural communities. These must include ways to preserve farms for future generations, protect the land in light of climate change and make sure that rebuilding monies are available when catastrophe happens.
When you elect me to be your next Congressman, I will work to implement the following policies to support our farmers:
1. Incentivize a butter/cheese/yogurt processing plant in Berks County.
According to the USDA, over 2,700 dairy farms were shuttered in 2018. A recent study suggested Berks County should open a processing plant for excess milk to be turned into butter, yogurt, and cheese, which has a longer shelf life. This will create more blue-collar manufacturing jobs in our district, plus result in higher milk prices for our farmers.
2. Support the Industrial Hemp Industry.
Over the last two years, the Tariff War has hurt our soybean and corn prices. China has started importing more grains from Brazil, Argentina, and Russia. Yes, we are hearing that in the Phase I agreement, this market will be coming back, but for how long? We have seen it evaporate before. According to the Farm Bureau, bankruptcies increased 24% in 2019 from the previous year. Our farmers need a consistent marketplace for our crops.
It is for this “consistent marketplace” reason that I believe Industrial Hemp can save our small farms. Hemp fiber can be used for insulation and construction materials, clothing, in the automobile industry, and the seed can be used for Cattle feed. Another Hemp variety can produce the medical benefiting CDB oils. Each of these markets are right here in America! We don’t have to worry about external trade and political issues. If each farm designated 20% of their land to grow hemp, that would mean less production of soybeans and corn. Less supply will increase prices for these crops, benefiting our farmers. Plus, we need to ramp up and invest NOW in hemp processing plants, which will bring more living-wage manufacturing jobs to our area.
3. Create farms that can grow energy.
In Iowa, many farmers have allowed windmills on their property, giving them extra income. Like Iowa, many farms in our 9th district have some land which is too steep or rocky or wet for cultivation. We can incentivize farmers with low-interest loans to install solar panels and wind generation energy systems in these areas. This decentralizes and diversifies our energy grid, which means we have greater energy (National) security. It will also help the environment by making the US less dependent on fossil fuels, becoming more carbon neutral in our fight against climate change. And we must incentivize the manufacturing of these panels and turbine parts in the 9th District. We have the skilled tech training facilities, and the open spaces to make this all viable. We just need NEW, strong, motivated leadership to make it a reality. We need Gary Wegman in Congress!
TAKE BACK CONTROL OF FARMING AND AGRIBUSINESS
Our many small farmers must take back control of the industry from the big players or we will continue to see a demise of families unable to sustain themselves on the land. The way we do that is by voting in candidates who care more about family farms than agribusiness. We have antitrust laws that need to be reactivated in local communities. Even things like the right to repair equipment without relying on manufacturers and distributors will give back our rights to self-control of our farms. Seed control, organic farm standards, and one’s ability to generate and control their own energy production and use, are all major issues, and they need to be focused on renewal and sustainability.
In our 9th District, we need to deal with the real issues of unaffordable healthcare for our agricultural communities, and the lack of both Internet and Cell phone connectivity throughout much of our rural areas. This is a huge disadvantage to our farmers, our school children and our workforce in general. Unfortunately, these issues are not even receiving lip service from our current US Congressman. This is unacceptable, and they need to be addressed now!