| More than 60,000 families throughout Pennsylvania continue to serve as 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 a leading economic driver in our 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. I have great respect for the hard work and dedication of Pennsylvania’s farm families; as a matter of fact, my working career began at age 13 picking fruit at Ashcombe’s Farm in Mechanicsburg.
In 2013, the United States Congress debated the Farm Bill - comprehensive legislation that governs the agriculture and food policies of the U.S. government. Reviewed and renewed every five years, the Farm Bill encompasses commodity supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural conservation, research, rural development, energy, and foreign and domestic food programs such as food stamps and other nutrition programs.
I’ve supported necessary reforms to our traditional farm programs, such as eliminating direct payments to farmers, and strengthening the crop insurance program, which has been a successful public-private partnership and helps to mitigate risk by giving protection against disastrous yields from weather conditions or collapses in commodity prices. The agriculture policies I supported would reduce federal spending by nearly $14 billion, provide certainty to Pennsylvania’s farmers, and strengthen the nation’s agriculture sector by updating our farm policies.
Many taxpayers would be surprised to learn that about 80 percent of the Farm Bill is comprised of nutrition assistance programs for our citizens. The most well-known of these programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), exists to provide a vital social safety net. Americans are a generous and giving people who are glad to help fellow citizens get back on their feet so they can support their families and have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
At a time when the nation is $17 trillion in debt, however, all programs – no matter how well intentioned – need to be evaluated for reforms so that they may run more efficiently. Since 2007, the number of SNAP recipients has risen from 26 million to nearly 47 million. In that time, spending on SNAP has grown from $35 billion to more than $80 billion – an increase of more than 125 percent. I supported legislation that would reduce this increase by about 5 percent over the next decade.
By implementing common-sense reforms that ensure funding is directed to the children, seniors, disabled individuals, and families that truly need assistance, this bill makes SNAP more fiscally solvent and viable for future generations. A healthy economy is our nation's long-term answer to poverty, and I’ll continue to seek solutions that create more job opportunities for all Americans and reduce our unsustainable debt.
Agriculture remains a key tenet of Pennsylvania’s and our Nation’s economy. I’ll continue to advocate for policies that provide certainty to our farmers and strengthens our nation’s agriculture sector.