Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
We’ve been hearing for years that agriculture is the state’s biggest industry. It’s been repeated so often and by so many that it’s calcified into a political truism, becoming a line proffered by policymakers of all stripes whenever the occasion presents itself.
But unlike some things that are open to debate, like, say, the inherent superiority of Sheetz over WaWa, it is slightly easier to quantify the direct and indirect economic benefit gleaned from Pennsylvania’s sprawling agriculture industry. And that’s exactly what a new state report released Wednesday attempts to do, as it makes the case for the primacy of agriculture, and the need for policymakers to continue to support it.
The bottom line: Agriculture has a $132.5 billion annual impact on the state’s economy, supporting more than 590,000 jobs, and it pays nearly $33 billion in wages every year, according to the report.
“Since the founding of the commonwealth agriculture has been a cornerstone of our state’s economy. We rely on the people who power the industry and the food they produce to sustain our lives,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement released by his office. “This report shows us plainly what we all realized over the past year: agriculture is vital to our lives and our economy. Pennsylvanians and policy-makers alike should do everything in their power to support it.”
The state last released a similar report in 2018, and used it as grounds to support legislation that eventually became the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, a wide-ranging suite of proposals, first enacted in 2019, that appropriated $23.1 million for agricultural programs across the commonwealth.
Republicans who control the General Assembly and the Democratic Wolf administration agreed to a second round of funding in 2020, totaling $13.6 million. The administration is seeking the same spending authorization from lawmakers in for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The report breaks down both the direct ($81.5 billion) and indirect and induced ($51 billion) economic impacts of the industry, which directly accounts for 5.8 percent of all private sector employment in the state. The industry provides further indirect and induced employment across a variety of sectors, according to the report:
“When we used the last report to support the industry with the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, we didn’t know what was coming for us in 2020,” state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a statement. “But our efforts to proactively address the opportunities for growth and threats to success quickly strengthened the resilience of the industry and helped many producers to pivot quickly with the rapidly changing markets and demands.
The report also assesses the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the industry, which received $16 million in assistance during 2020’s bifurcated budget debate.
“The pandemic unearthed glaring issues in how our food travels from farms to our grocery stores and then to our tables,” Sen. Judy Schwank, of Berks County, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, said. “I’m glad to see a section of this report dedicated to recognizing the difficulties the pandemic presented Pennsylvania’s agriculture sector and how so many of our farmers, producers and distributors rose to the challenge. This report presents ways for us to continue to support this vital industry and I look forward to helping enact some of those changes.”
The governing board of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education voted Wednesday to consolidate six of its 14 campus into two institutions. Stephen Caruso has the details.
New state House and Senate proposals would mandate additional protections and paid sick leave for meatpacking and food processing workers, I report.
In a very different speech to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden called for sweeping ‘once-in-a-generation investment’ to reshape the nation, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson writes. Associate Editor Cassie Miller has the reaction to the speech from Pennsylvania politicians.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, and a GOP state Supreme Court hopeful are slated to appear at a QAnon conference, Caruso also reports. And a proposed constitutional amendment on the May 18 primary ballot that reinforces the unlawfulness of racial discrimination has a precedent — and online skeptics, Caruso further reports.
On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Lloyd E. Sheaffer tackles the destructive fear of ‘the other,’ and how to combat it. And a University of Pennsylvania expert discusses the coming voice profiling ‘revolution.’
The Inquirer explains why school teachers are facing a hike in their pension costs — and why state employees dodged one.
A mayoral debate in Pittsburgh on Wednesday took on issues of racial equity and police reform, the Post-Gazette reports.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse wants to use federal stimulus money to create a guaranteed basic income program for some city residents as a way to tackle generational poverty, PennLive reports.
Lancaster County commissioners have voted to rescind the county’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, LancasterOnline reports (paywall).
The state Senate has passed legislation undoing PennDOT’s plans to toll nine bridges, the Morning Call reports.
A methadone clinic has gotten the zoning clearance it needs to relocate to WIlkes-Barre, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
The York Daily Record explains why the state’s housing market is currently a battleground (paywall).
Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:
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Protesters marched on the Penn Museum on Wednesday to decry the handling of MOVE remains, WHYY-FM reports.
Addiction treatment providers in Pa. face little state scrutiny despite harm to clients, a joint investigation between Kaiser Health Network and Spotlight PA has found (via WITF-FM).
In a visit to Erie, Gov. Tom Wolf encouraged people to get vaccinated, GoErie reports.
During that same swing, Wolf also visited a vaccine clinic in Washington County, the Observer-Reporter reports.
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, raised $310K during the first quarter of 2021, PoliticsPA reports.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will hit the road to sell the ambitious plans the administration unveiled Wednesday, Roll Call reports.
What Goes On.
10 a.m., Senate Chamber: The Senate Appropriations and Education committees get an update from the state System of Higher Education.
What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
12 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Devlin Robinson
6 p.m.: Reception for Allegheny County Court candidate Jessel Costa
7 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Sharif Street
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out a truly ridiculous $8,100 today.
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.
You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
An enormous Feliz Cumpleaños goes out this morning to the woman who keeps our Estrella-Capital section rolling. Our Spanish translator, Bella Altman, rings in another year today. And we cannot say thank you enough for her great work. Have a great day!
Here’s a lovely one from Wilco main main Jeff Tweedy to get your Thursday morning started. It’s ‘Guess Again.’
Thursday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
Someday soon, Baltimore will have a good night against the Yankees. Wednesday was not that night. New York blanked the Birds 7-0.
And now you’re up to date.