Casey discusses Farm Bill with students

March 27, 2008

University Park, Pa. -- The Farm Bill making its way through Congress has much to offer Pennsylvania agriculture, but much more needs to be done in the future, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey told students during a visit to Penn State's University Park campus Wednesday (March 26).

Casey spoke to an auditorium full of students during a session of AgriBusiness Management 101. He noted that the Farm Bill now being negotiated has several provisions that are key for Pennsylvania, including a specialty crops subtitle, changes to crop insurance programs that will benefit the state's producers, and a fruit and vegetable snack program for school children that will enhance nutrition while benefiting growers.

Addressing a question about ethanol subsidies in the Farm Bill, Casey said that biofuels, particularly ethanol derived from corn, could have unknown costs and unintended environmental consequences. "But that doesn't mean we should abandon the effort," he said. "Research is the answer to overcoming these obstacles and keeping us moving toward energy independence."

Casey said with feed, fertilizer and fuel costs rising for dairy producers, he was disappointed that the Farm Bill will not incorporate the cost of production into the formulas for setting milk prices, a provision he fought for. "But there will be mandatory public daily price reporting, so that dairy farmers will have more of the current information they need to make sound business decisions," he said.

Earlier in the day, Casey visited Penn State's apiary, where researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences are studying Colony Collapse Disorder, an affliction that has wiped out up to a third of the nation's commercial honeybee colonies. Honeybees are vital to the pollination of $15 billion worth of crops, representing about a third of the nation's diet. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the state's $50 million apple crop is dependent on honeybees for 90 percent of its pollination.

Casey noted that more federal funding is needed for honeybee research. "The expertise here at Penn State will be critical in solving the problem," he said.

Noting that a failure by Congress to pass the Farm Bill by the April 18 deadline could endanger the continuation of various agriculture programs, Robert Steele, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, pointed out that federal support is vital in addressing emerging issues such as Colony Collapse Disorder. "Our capacity to conduct research on important agricultural, environmental and energy-related problems is largely a result of federal formula funds authorized through the Farm Bill," he said.

During his Penn State visit, Casey also toured the Berkey Creamery, interacted with faculty and students from the Penn State Dickinson School of Law and met with President Graham Spanier and other administrators.

  • U.S. Sen. Bob Casey waits to speak on the Farm Bill. Click here for more images.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated November 18, 2010