State Rep. Danilo Burgos, D-Phila., introduced this week H.B. 1301 legislation to establish the Pennsylvania Socially Diverse Farmers Commission to review current policies and produce a report making recommendations to promote and implement a Commonwealth diversity, equity and inclusion plan within the Department of Agriculture.
“Each and every Pennsylvanian has the ability to touch, feel and taste Pennsylvania’s bountiful fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy and other agricultural goods, but not every Pennsylvanian has the same opportunity to help grow and produce it or participate in Pennsylvania’s $132.5 billion agricultural industry,” Burgos said. “It’s time to establish the Pennsylvania Socially Diverse Farmers Commission to determine what policies are needed to open Pa.’s ag industry to a more diverse generation of Pa. farmers to grow and produce the high-quality foods that feed our families and economy.”
According to the USDA’s 2017 Census of Agriculture, of the 90,461 producers in Pennsylvania, 89,843 were white, 759 were Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, 108 were American Indian/Alaska Native, 103 were Asian and 80 were Black or African American.
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Throughout his tenure, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding has recognized the challenges and barriers facing many socially diverse farmers, working to establish Project JUST and now supporting the creation of a Pa. Socially Diverse Farmers Commission.
“Anyone who wants to be a part of Pennsylvania agriculture should have the opportunity to do so. Whether they live on Pennsylvania’s rural acres or in urban spaces, agriculture in Pennsylvania is ZIP code neutral,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “The strength and resiliency of our future industry relies on hands who are passionate for agriculture, regardless of the color of their skin. I look forward to working with Representative Burgos to evaluate where we stand today and how we can feed the future equitably.”
Once established, the commission would have one year to study and develop an action plan to improve opportunities for socially diverse and disadvantaged farmers by seeking to eliminate disparities for historically socially disadvantaged groups and BIPOC populations in Pennsylvania.
Reviews for several areas
The commission’s report will make reviews and recommendations in several areas, including, but not limited to: education and career opportunities for socially disadvantaged individuals, farmers and groups; current issues facing socially disadvantaged farmers; and capital access for socially disadvantaged farmers.
“Pennsylvania and our nation are long overdue to identify and implement the reforms needed promote equal access for all to an industry employing and supporting nearly 593,000 people and injecting $32 billion in wages into our economy,” Burgos said. “I thank Secretary Redding for his support and am ready to work with my co-sponsors to introduce, promote and do everything we can to establish the Pennsylvania Socially Diverse Farmers Commission.”