"The Strength of Pennsylvania's Farming Community on Display"
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend the 87th Annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. In addition to witnessing the sights and sounds all met under a continuous 16-acre roof, it is always valuable for me to meet with members of the farming community and to hear their perspectives on the Commonwealth's agricultural issues. Though the Farm Show is a seasonal highlight for the state capital, 2003 is a banner year for this event. This past December, Governor Schweiker opened a 360,000-square foot annex to the Farm Show complex and with the new facilities, the Show is undeniably the largest indoor agricultural affair in all of America. Harrisburg's complex attracts more than 200 events and exhibitions each year, but with an estimated 400,000 visitors, the Pennsylvania Farm Show is the greatest financial boon to the capital area.
The state's efforts to upgrade the Farm Show Complex illustrate a continued commitment to and investment in the agriculture industry. This type of project allows us all to better appreciate and celebrate the strength of Pennsylvania's farmers and the importance of their work. The production of the Commonwealth's farms comprises our largest industry and the lifeblood of the Pennsylvania economy. Our agricultural goods have sustained the state since its founding and helped to feed the nation and indeed the world. Today, for example, we are home to companies who produce foodstuffs under names as widely known as Hershey and Utz, and these businesses are built on the crops and produce that come from our state farms.
My role in the US Senate allows me to stand up for the state's rural communities by fighting to preserve vital Pennsylvania farmland from urban sprawl and development. Since 1996, the Farmland Protection Program has sheltered thousands of acres of farmland within the Commonwealth and ensured the economic viability of the agricultural industry by maintaining the most productive land for future generations. This is of particular importance for our dairy farmers who drive the largest sector of our farming community. I will remain supportive of the Program and other measures, such as the Dairy Farmers Fairness Act, which was intended to provide dairy producers with a price safety net during a time of market volatility. My conversations with folks at the Farm Show further bolster my resolve to preserve our farmland and work for the farmers and the economic health of our Commonwealth.
I am proud to represent Pennsylvania's 60,000 hard-working, farming families, all of whom are recognized by the Farm Show. This event is a wonderful way to honor the things they do every day, and some of the things they do on the side - from prize-winning baked goods and country line dancing to beautifully cultivated corn and best-bred livestock. It also reminds us of the state's long agricultural history and of the American entrepreneurial spirit that Pennsylvania's farmers continue to reflect.