Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture
Secretary George Greig leads the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which encourages, protects and promotes agriculture and related industries throughout the commonwealth while providing consumer protection through inspection services that impact the health and financial security of Pennsylvania’s citizens.
Pennsylvania’s 63,000 farm families continue to be the stewards of more than 7.7 million acres of farmland. With $5.7 billion in cash receipts annually from production agriculture, Pennsylvania farmers and agribusinesses are the leading economic driver in the state.
In addition to production agriculture, the industry also raises revenue and supplies jobs through support services such as food processing, marketing, transportation, and farm equipment. In total, production agriculture and agribusiness contributes nearly $57 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy.
Greig was raised on a dairy and crop farm in Linesville, Crawford County, where he continues to grow and market corn and hay for feed and soybeans for biofuel in partnership with his brother. He and his brother also operate Dogwood Valley Recreation Center in Wadestown, W.V.
Prior to joining the department, Greig was a local, state and national agriculture leader. For eight years, he was a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency State Committee. Greig is currently a state board member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and previously served as Crawford County Farm Bureau President for eight years, Crawford County board member for 12 years and has been local affairs chairman and served on the legislative committee.
Greig currently serves as a Conneaut Township Supervisor, and has served as a district director of the Crawford County Conservation District and member of the Great Lakes Regional Water Board.
Greig graduated from Linesville-Conneaut-Summit High School in 1969, where he was active in the agricultural education program and FFA. He attended The Pennsylvania State University and Edinboro University.
Greig resides on his 650-acre family farm in Crawford County, with his wife, Christine. Together, they have six children and three grandchildren.
It is amazing to me that this organization was formed by a group of just 23 farmers, merchants and professionals over 225 years ago. And still today, this society works to help members and the non-farming public be able to form opinions regarding policy, achievements and concerns of U.S. agriculture. I appreciate the partnership we have with this organization. As we continue our programs at the Department of Agriculture, our relationship with you only grows stronger.
Last year was a difficult time for our producers throughout Pennsylvania. They weathered a drought, hurricane, and a tropical storm. The rotted crops, flooded fields, homes and the financial loss that our farmers faced was devastating. But as I visited some of the farms, I was quickly reminded of how resilient our farming community is. Bill Wehry, who is the state director of the Farm Service Agency, joined me on many of the farm tours. We met with producers and asked them what help they needed, and how we – as a state – could help them.
Last week, I went to Washington to talk to our Pennsylvania delegation. I spoke with Senators Toomey and Casey and Congressmen Holden, Thompson, Pitts and Kelley. I met with them to ask them for additional help. It’s been more than four months and still, many of our farmers are experiencing difficulties. I’ve also made a request to the USDA Risk Management Agency to grant emergency loss adjustment procedures in disaster declaration areas.
At the state level, Senator Yaw introduced legislation which would amend the First Industries Program. The legislation includes language to reduce the minimum project amount for farmers afflicted by disaster from five hundred thousand dollars to zero. It removes the two percent fee of the total guarantee amount for loans certified under the Ag Disaster Recovery Program.
The bill has passed the Senate and is currently assigned to the House Ag Committee and awaits action. The Department of Agriculture will continue to work to ensure that producers who were affected by the floods are able to continue their production efforts. Our farmers are true stewards of their land. They don’t maintain their ground just because they are regulated, but because they are passionate about farming and ensuring that the land remains healthy for generations to come. Regulators and farmers need to carry on the conversation and work together to continue the great tradition of farming.
To safeguard the Chesapeake and our precious farmland, the department worked with other government agencies to draft phase two of the Watershed Implementation Program. We submitted our plan to the EPA in mid-December. The plan addresses EPA’s expectations which are to develop a Phase Two WIP so that our local partners are aware of the WIP strategies, understand their contribution to meeting the TMDL allocations and can suggest any refinements to the WIP strategies. The Draft Phase Two WIP was developed to meet the EPA’s revised nutrient and sediment allocations for the TMDL. The Department of Environmental Protection will be accepting comments on Pennsylvania’s Draft Phase Two WIP until January 30. Your input is essential and I encourage you to share your thoughts and expertise.
As you know, the 2012 Farm Bill is under consideration. The Federal Farm Bill is part of American agriculture. For decades, it has shaped agricultural policy and offered assistance to our farmers.
As congress is preparing this farm bill, Governor Corbett presented PA’s recommendations for the legislation. His requests would ensure that PA farmers can remain competitive despite the many challenges faced over this growing season. Our priorities for the bill include: providing risk management tools to dairy producers, ensuring the Farmland Protection Program remains separated from land retirement programs, maintaining funding for programs that support conservation without hindering farm profitability, preserving funding for nutrition education and food programs, continuing funding block grants for direct market operations and farmers markets, maintaining funding for plant pest and disease management programs, continuing support of crop insurance and disaster assistance programs, expanding livestock insurance policies and funding emergency assistance programs.
With the focus on debt reduction, we don’t know exactly how Farm Bill negotiations will play out, but PA needs to stay in the conversation. The Farm Bill’s programs help Pennsylvanians and help keep agriculture the cornerstone of our economy. The agriculture industry contributes fifty seven billion dollars to Pennsylvania’s economy. As we continue our mission to keep agriculture the number one industry in Pennsylvania, we have a new law that gives Pennsylvanians a greater opportunity to purchase fresh local produce and agricultural commodities. Governor Corbett signed a law, making PA Preferred the permanent branding program for producers. Producers who use the PA Preferred trademark, our blue keystone with a gold checkmark, will let consumers know that the products they are buying are made in PA, and it makes a difference. Consumers will know when they spend their money on eggs, vegetables and other commodities, they’re supporting our producers and agricultural industries. At the same time, they’re helping to strengthen local economies across the state.
Another effort to develop job creation and focus on economic development includes the creation of the Pennsylvania Dairy Leadership Council. We brought together key leaders within the dairy industry and have tasked them with identifying and prioritizing critical issues impacting the industry. As chair of the council, I will share our recommendations with the Governor. Pennsylvania is very fortunate to have farmers and agri-business people who dedicate their time to keep agriculture the cornerstone of the state’s economy. As I travel the state and meet the men and women who are the backbone of our industry, I’m reminded of how very proud I am to be a Pennsylvanian. And I’m honored to serve the commonwealth as the secretary of agriculture.
Thank you for your help in promoting agriculture. It’s an industry in which men and women work so very hard and are sometimes forgotten. It’s organizations like yours that can help us put faces to the more than 63,000 farm families across the commonwealth and give them the credit they deserve.
I look forward to continuing our relationship and working together to keep Pennsylvania growing.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.