Russell C. Redding

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture

Biographical Sketch
Russell C. Redding has served as Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture since September 2009. He previously served as Executive Deputy Secretary for the Department. Redding also has extensive experience as a public servant, having spent more than 20 years serving Pennsylvania in Harrisburg and in Washington D.C. Through his work as the Vocational Student Organization Coordinator with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Redding provided leadership to the Pennsylvania FFA Association. As a member of the Department of Labor & Industry’s executive staff, Redding helped shape policies that kept Pennsylvania businesses thriving and bolstered the state’s workforce.

Redding is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, having earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Agriculture and Extension Education. In 2005, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus by the university. Redding was a Pennsylvania State FFA Officer, serving as Vice President for the agricultural education organization. In recognition of his support, Redding has been awarded the Honorary Keystone Degree and the Honorary American Degree. In 2009, the Pennsylvania FFA Association recognized him for his 30 years of committed service to the organization. Redding grew up on his family’s dairy farm in Gettysburg. He and his wife Nina also operated a dairy farm of their own.

Presentation Summary
I would like to thank the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture for its leadership role in providing important perspectives on the issues that affect agriculture and our food system. When we think about the issues here in Pennsylvania, animal agriculture is front and center. A lot of the issues we deal with in the Department of Agriculture are in one way or another related to animal agriculture. I think it’s important that we manage the issues in an engaged, respectful way and that we protect animal agriculture in the state and its contribution to Pennsylvania’s rich agricultural heritage.

When you’re involved in agriculture you are involved in three different businesses. You’re in the food business, you’re in the relationship business and you’re in the education business. As I look at the Society and its amazing history, I see that you are engaged in all those aspects. Since the governor appointed me Secretary of Agriculture last fall, I have gotten a crash course in the size of this Commonwealth. It certainly is a bigger place than I thought it was. The agriculture in my home county of Adams county is certainly different than what we see in Erie County. Agriculture in this state reaches across the spectrum, from our farms to our conservation districts to our food banks and farmers markets. All of these aspects are constituents of the Department of Agriculture.

In the confirmation process, I visited with all 50 members of the state Senate. After completing those visits, I was struck by the many perspectives on agriculture that exist in their home districts as well as the diversity of that agriculture. For some, agriculture means nutrient management for the Chesapeake Bay, for some it is land development issues and for others it means protecting dairy farming. Growing up in agriculture I had a certain view of it. Many of those who decide the issues and budgets for agriculture have a different view. Their views are shaped by the people they talk to. For many it is a narrower view such as animal care, food safety or environment.

One of the tasks I have is to ensure that agriculture is not only a picturesque part of Pennsylvania but also a viable part of our future. We are in the final year of the Rendell administration. It is also a challenging one because the world is upside down financially. The expectations haven’t changed in terms of services delivered by the department but the budgets that enable us to fulfill our mission have been reduced. In my final eight months in office, I have laid out some objectives:

  • First is to make sure that all of agriculture has a friend in the Department of Agriculture. We are size-neutral in terms of the farming enterprises we serve. We make no judgments as to what is or is not a family farm.
  • Secondly, we need to make sure that when it comes to food safety, each citizen has access to our inspection reports.
  • Third is to continue to do the good work on environmental stewardship and farmland preservation. Pennsylvania has the leading farmland preservation program in the nation with over 4,000 farms preserved in perpetuity. Our policies for protecting the Chesapeake Bay have laid a strong foundation for environmental stewardship.
  • Fourth is to address food insecurity. Farmers and the department play a key role in ensuring that food banks such as Philabundance have the wherewithal to provide for 1.5 million people in Pennsylvania who do not have enough to eat. We can’t have a good system of food charity if we don’t have a charitable food system.
  • Finally, we need to be sure we are working across the government and linking with the sister agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection or Department of Health or, for that matter, local government. It will take maintaining strong linkages all across government if we are to ensure that agriculture remains viable. We can’t ensure that from within the department. It has to be through outreach and partnerships.

I would like to end with an important point: As I look around the room at the various members of the Society and the next generation of leaders represented by The FFA Organization members in attendance, I ask each of you to advocate on behalf of agriculture. In these difficult economic times it is important that we remember that agriculture needs to be supported and encouraged. Voices like those of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture will be needed if we are to ensure that our agriculture remains viable.

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.