Senator, 36th District of Pennsylvania
A native of Pennsylvania, Mike Brubaker received a B.S. in agronomy from the University of West Virginia where he attended on a track scholarship. For 25 years, he owned and operated companies that provided consulting services, mostly in the field of agriculture where he became known for his expertise in agronomic and environmental management. Brubaker serves on the Chesapeake Bay Commission and is a former Chairman of that group. As Senator for the 36th District of Pennyslvania, he is former Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and current Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
It was 227 years ago today that the founders of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture got together to form this great organization. I believe that it is the responsibility of you as members and I as a member of this great Society to ensure that it continues to thrive. Benjamin Franklin, who was a member, said that the greatest business of our continent is agriculture. It remains so today in no small part due to global trade which is my subject today.
There are many people who say that we should not be devoting our resources to as much global and international relations activity as we do. In fact, some believe that all international relations are bad for the U.S. They are wrong. We should flush these people out, let them make their points and then make our points. Those who are doing business with the U.S. are doing business with four percent of the world’s population. In order to do business with the other 96 percent of the world population, we need to cultivate international relations.
In North Korea, for example, we are negotiating a reduction in nuclear arms development in exchange for shipments amounting to 2400 metric tons of food from the U.S. Food is what they want and they indicate they are willing to stand down from nuclear arms to get it. This is possible because in the U.S. we produce way more food than we need and the rate of our productivity increases exceeds the rate of our growth in population. This not only helps correct our balance of trade with other nations, it also gives us leverage in negotiating with them in the world marketplace.
Pennsylvania is our 6th largest state by population and is 20th in gross exports, sending about $2 billion per year overseas. New Jersey, New York and Virginia’s combined exports about equal Pennsylvania’s. More than 50 percent of Pennsylvania’s agricultural exports come from Lancaster County. The state’s number one agricultural export is sugar and sugar products. Pennsylvania is 5th in the nation in unmanufactured tobacco, 7th in dairy products, 8th in fruit, 9th in poultry, and 14th in the nation in live animals and bees.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce has trade representatives from 33 countries who come to the state as part of a program to enhance agricultural exports. If a company wants to export, these people are under contract to help get that done. Even so, Pennsylvanians face export barriers in a number of countries, ranging from protective tariffs to bans based on health or political concerns. An example of the latter is European bans on genetically modified grains like corn. Some would say this is politically motivated to protect European farmers from competition.
Trade missions overseas help establish person-to-person dialogues that can clear up the issues associated with protective barriers. In recent years these trade missions have become more focused and are all business unlike in the past when some trade missions resembled family vacations. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is important in the context of exports and it’s important that we keep the department as strong as possible. Even though its cost is a very small percentage of the total state budget, it remains under threat of cuts.
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.