(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/The Minnesota Reformer)
Pennsylvania’s “PA Preferred Organic Program,” an initiative aimed at helping Pennsylvania farmers transition to growing organic crops, as well as promote and market organic produce, could become a permanent part of the state’s budget thanks to a bill currently in the General Assembly.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, would allow the state to continue allocating budget dollars to the Department of Agriculture for the purpose of funding the program in areas such as promotion, marketing and financial assistance to farmers on a permanent basis.
In a statement, House Democrats said the proposal has “bipartisan support.”
“PA Preferred Organic businesses grow all foods under the sun that are healthy for us, and that alone should be a reason to make the program permanent in our commonwealth,” State Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, a co-sponsor, said in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Pennsylvania is among the top five states in the nation for organic sales, raking in a total of $707.6 million in 2019.
Pennsylvania is also home to 1,055 certified organic farms, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Established in 2019 as part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the PA Preferred Organic Program has served as an opportunity for Pennsylvania farmers to increase and diversify their income.
“Pennsylvanians are increasingly seeking a greater quality, quantity and variety of organic foods at their markets and grocery stores,” Pashinski said. “By making Pennsylvania-produced organic products even more readily available, our farmers can continue to benefit from this rapidly expanding market.”
Citing the environmental and economic benefits of the PA Preferred Organic Program, the department said that it supports efforts by the General Assembly to make the program permanent.
“Organic practices promise to address some of our greatest conservation and climate challenges, while providing economic opportunity,” Agriculture Department spokesperson Shannon Powers told the Capital-Star. The PA Preferred Organic Program is an investment in growing opportunities and keeping Pennsylvania a national leader.
“… The department supports these new efforts to secure its place in state law permanently,” Powers added.
The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee for consideration.
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