Lawmakers, seeing demand for organic produce, seek to make Pa. Preferred program permanent
Citing growing demand for organic produce, state lawmakers are again proposing a bill to make Pennsylvania’s “PA Preferred Organic Program,” an initiative created to help Pennsylvania farmers transition to, and promote growing organic crops, a permanent fixture in the state budget.
The bill, reintroduced as HB 157, is sponsored by state Reps. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, and Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, who argue that the bill would make it easier for Pennsylvanians to identify and buy locally grown produce by making the commonwealth’s PA Preferred marketing program permanent.
“Pennsylvanians are increasingly seeking a greater quantity and variety of organic foods at their markets and groceries,” the lawmakers wrote in a memo seeking legislative support for the bill. “By making Pa produced organic products easily identifiable and encouraging our farmers to produce more organic products in-state, Pennsylvania farmers can continue to benefit from this rapidly expanding market.”
In 2021, Pennsylvania ranked third in the nation for organic sales, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
The lawmakers said that the legislation has bipartisan support in the General Assembly, and would not put the commonwealth’s organic and non-organic farmers in competition with each other for business.
“The program would not compete with other Pennsylvania producers but would instead further enhance Pennsylvania’s brand recognition and ensure the PA Preferred trademark is leveraged fairly across all production methods,” Pashinski, who chairs the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said.
The PA Preferred Program would continue to be administered by the state Department of Agriculture if made permanent, according to the bill.
Organic produce and organic food producers are also included in the proposed state budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
In his first budget address as governor, Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed allocating $1 million to expanding Pennsylvania’s organic agriculture industry by creating an Organic Center of Excellence.
The funds “will grow the state’s ability to support this sector of the industry,” the Department of Agriculture said in a statement.
State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said the proposed spending plan will support the commonwealth’s $132.5 billion agriculture industry through “targeted, thoughtful investments and resources for innovation.”
“Governor Shapiro’s proposed budget makes it clear that he values Pennsylvania farmers and the hard work we do to keep Pennsylvanians safe and keep them fed,” Redding said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Governor, General Assembly, and our industry partners throughout the budget process.”
The department will defend its proposed budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year at a Senate Appropriations hearing on March 28.