The Quality and Character of Pennsylvania Displayed Under One Roof
by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)
This week, families from all corners of the northeast will come to view the impressive livestock, farm equipment displays, and educational demonstrations at the largest indoor agricultural event in America. The Farm Show provides a time of education and cultivation of the character and events indigenous to the agricultural community. Pennsylvania's rural population of 3.7 million spans 7.7 million acres of farmland. But for eight days, the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg packs the sights, sounds, and smells of rural Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth's largest industry under one roof.
The Farm Show is always an exciting celebration of the farming and agriculture community. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to represent the interests of Pennsylvania's number one industry by serving on the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee in the 109th Congress. The estimated value of Pennsylvania crop sales in 2002 was $1.3 billion and the estimated value of Pennsylvania animal agriculture sales in 2002 was $2.9 billion. Our national and state economy depends on the products of farmers, and it is imperative that we keep agriculture strong.
The ongoing effort to preserve vital Pennsylvania farmland from urban sprawl and development is also extremely important. Every year more than one million acres of our nation's most productive farmland is lost to urbanization. This is land that produces three-quarters of America's fruit and vegetables, and more than half of our dairy products. While state and local governments have taken the lead in preservation efforts, the demand for assistance continues to grow. It is important to protect farmland from urbanization so that our farmers can provide the nation with a sufficient food supply.
To this end, I led the fight to create the Farmland Preservation Program, through which Pennsylvania has already received more than $12 million, allowing for the protection and preservation of more than 13,000 acres of farmland. The Farmland Protection Program presents tremendous economic benefits to the agricultural industry by ensuring that the most productive farmland in our nation, including Pennsylvania farmland, will be maintained for future generations.
My position on the Agriculture Committee also allows me the opportunity to advocate for child nutrition programs. During the recent reauthorization of federal child nutrition programs, I supported several changes that will have a direct positive impact on the children of rural Pennsylvania.
I am also a member of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade issues, an ever-increasing issue of importance for agriculture. Through my role on the Finance Committee, I am dedicated to promoting Pennsylvania's agricultural products as the United States negotiates trade agreements with other countries. In the 109th Congress, I will continue working to assist Pennsylvania farmers, using all the tools available to me to work for the long-term changes necessary to ensure strong markets and fair prices that are advantageous for farmers.
Through my efforts on the Agriculture and Finance Committees, I have witnessed the needs of farmers and their families. I understand that farmers and their families often struggle in finding access to quality, affordable health care in rural areas. As a member of the Senate Rural Health Care Caucus, I remain committed to working with my colleagues to evaluate ways to strengthen and improve Medicare and Medicaid, particularly for beneficiaries in rural communities, and to extend the temporary increase in payments under the Medicare program for home health services furnished in a rural area. I also believe that we must support the Health Resources and Services Administration's rural health policy initiative for development and state-level infrastructure.
Ninety-one percent of Pennsylvania's land area is classified as "rural" according to the 2002 Census of agriculture, and these communities have different needs than those of urban areas. As your United States Senator, I will continue to support legislation that preserves family values, enriches communities, and renews a culture of life and compassion in Pennsylvania.
I enjoy walking through the many exhibits at the Farm Show because it provides a valuable opportunity for me to meet with members of the farming community and to hear their perspectives on the Commonwealth's agricultural issues. This event is a wonderful way to honor the work they do every day on behalf of Pennsylvania and the nation, as well as some of the personal interests they pursue--from prize-winning baked foods and the famous life-size butter sculpture to the Annual Sheep-to-Shawl Contest and livestock judging. It also reminds us of the state's long agricultural history and of the American entrepreneurial spirit that Pennsylvania's farmers continue to reflect. I am proud to represent Pennsylvania's 59,000 hard-working, farming families, all of who will be recognized this week at the 89th Annual Farm Show in Harrisburg.