At a House Republican Policy Committee hearing in Lancaster County on Wednesday, state lawmakers heard from farmers and agribusiness owners about the challenges they’re facing amid record high inflation and the pandemic’s far-reaching effects. COVID-19.
“I represent a small family-owned meat processing company located in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, and we’ve been in business since 1965,” said Mike Smucker, president of Smucker’s Meats, adding that inflation has driven up the cost of ingredients. and packaging supplies for his business, and put a construction project on hold.
“The cost of goods for the services we provide has increased an average of about 15% over the past 12 months,” Smucker said.
To combat rising costs, Smucker said his business needs to get creative and find ways to be more efficient, including reducing the company’s waste and seeking market prices.
Another obstacle shared by the committee was the difficulty of recruiting and retaining staff.
A component of Pennsylvania’s farm bill created in 2019, the commonwealth currently has opportunities known as “work-to-earn-while-you-learn” opportunities that, according to the state Department of Agriculture, provide employers with the skilled workers they need to operate. increasingly computer-driven equipment, while also connecting high school students and recent graduates with paid training at equipment dealers so they can learn to service high-tech farm equipment.
When asked by state lawmakers if he had any recommendations that could help address staffing issues, Smucker suggested creating a better path for formerly incarcerated people in Pennsylvania to find work in the agriculture industry.
“One solution to our jobs problem would be to create better initiatives for those who have been or will be released from prison,” Smucker said. “While these suggestions may not seem like a direct cure for inflation, my belief is that we can best address problems by addressing issues that are steps away from the actual problem and address the core issues at the heart of an issue. Access to work by underprivileged or underserved segments of our communities is a place to start addressing some of the core issues.”
He continued: “In the past, we’ve seen some of the hardest working people come out of prison and [they] you have to make a fresh start with the desire to prove yourself. “I believe that a true path to rehabilitation is to provide job opportunities that build on self-respect and the simple pleasure of finishing a hard day’s work.”
Heather Lewis, a first-generation farmer also based in Lancaster County, said the uncertainty of the future is a stress for her and her husband Mike, who have seen a 25% increase in their crop investments ( such as fertilizers and pesticides) due to share inflation.
“It’s hard to sleep sometimes,” Lewis told the committee, “with farming comes a lot of uncertainty.”
Lewis said that while she is grateful that her children are learning hard lessons about the realities of farming, she often feels stressed about finding a balance between securing their future on the farm and mitigating financial risk now that the purse strings are tight. .
“I’m glad they’re here, learning these lessons now and preparing for future opportunities,” Lewis said of her children. “They need to know that tightening things up now will hopefully lead to opportunities later.”
To Bill Beam, president and owner, Beam Farms Inc. in Elverson, Chester County, rising equipment costs have made things more difficult for his farming operation.
Beam explained the sticker shock he felt when he recently went to a John Deere location to buy new equipment and found prices had gone up 25%.
Similarly, Beam said ordering parts to fix existing equipment has become expensive and less of an option, with wait times of up to six months for new parts due to ongoing supply chain issues.
Beam said an employee shared with him that while the company typically has one price increase per year, it had already implemented three price increases in 2022.
“Unfortunately, inflation is here, it’s real,” Beam told the committee.
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