New agricultural resource centers to be highlighted at Ag Progress Days

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Three new agricultural resource centers funded in the recently passed Pennsylvania state budget will be unveiled to the public during Ag Progress Days on Aug. 13-15 at Rock Springs.

The centers, a collaborative effort between Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, will address the hot button issues of food safety, animal care and plant health.

Teams from all three centers will be available to speak with agricultural producers, food processors, consumers and others from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Aug. 15, in the Department of Agriculture Building, on West 11th Street at the Ag Progress Days site.

Supported initially by $300,000 in seed money appropriated to the Department of Agriculture in the 2013-14 state budget, the centers are part of an effort to forge innovative partnerships that can leverage resources and expertise across organizations to meet critical challenges facing the commonwealth, according to Barbara Christ, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

"These centers will promote collaboration on high-priority issues for Pennsylvania agriculture," said Christ. "They will enhance and sustain the economic growth of affected industries and help meet consumer expectations for safe and high-quality food produced with as small an environmental footprint as possible."

The centers will be housed at Penn State and will involve personnel from both organizations in developing the best research-based solutions to scientific, educational and regulatory challenges. Guided by advisory boards, the centers will be a resource for industry, organizations, agencies, legislators, the public and the media, she noted.

Following are examples of issues that the centers will address:

-- Food Safety Resource Center: Production and regulatory changes brought about by the federal Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 have been called the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years. New Food and Drug Administration rules will affect producers, processors, retailers, restaurants, farmers' markets and consumers.

For the first time, food safety regulations will include animal feed and product traceability, which will have significant impacts for Pennsylvania dairy and livestock producers. To reduce on-farm food-safety risks and access produce markets, growers of fruits, vegetables and other crops will need training on Good Agricultural Practices, known as GAPs. This center will assess research and training needs to help ensure compliance with the new regulations.

-- Animal Care Resource Center: Activist groups and consumers have become more vocal about their expectations for animal care in agriculture and have worked to pass regulations dictating animal production practices. The College of Agricultural Sciences has extensive expertise in animal behavior, health and production practices, as well as facility design and construction methods that enhance animal well-being.

This center will focus on science-based best practices, certification standards, facility needs and assessments, regulatory compliance, management and employee training, animal transportation, economic impacts, public education and other issues.

-- Plant Health Resource Center: The greatest challenge for Pennsylvania's plant industries is non-native invasive species that threaten crops and native plants. The identification and management of plant pests -- such as insects, diseases and invasive weeds -- are critical to ensuring the health and productivity of food crops, forests and landscapes.

Recent examples include brown marmorated stink bugs, honey bee colony collapse disorder, emerald ash borer, hemlock wooly adelgid, tomato blight and plum pox virus. This center will focus its resources on monitoring and surveillance practices to prevent pests from becoming a problem and to contain infestations when they occur.

Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 14 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 15. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogress, and Facebook users can find the event at http://www.facebook.com/AgProgressDays.

Contacts: 
Last Updated August 07, 2013