Farmers and business owners discuss rising food production costs, Lancaster inflation.

At a House Republican Policy Committee hearing in Lancaster County on Wednesday, state lawmakers heard from farmers and owners of farm-adjacent businesses amid record high inflation and the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. I asked him about the challenges he faced.

“I represent a small, family-owned meat processing company in Mountjoy, Pennsylvania, and have been in business since 1965,” said Mike Smucker, president of Smucker’s Meats, as inflation drove up the cost of ingredients. , packed supplies for his business and put construction projects on hold.

“Commodity costs for the services we provide have increased by an average of about 15% over the last 12 months,” Smucker said.

Smucker said his business needs to get creative and find more efficient ways to combat rising costs, such as reducing the company’s waste and researching market prices. rice field.

Another hurdle shared by the committee was the difficulty of recruiting and retaining employees.

Part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill created in 2019, the federal government now has an opportunity known as the “learn-while-learning apprenticeship,” which, according to the state Department of Agriculture, gives employers the skills they need to operate. provide workers. While more and more computer-driven equipment is available, high school and new graduates are being linked to paid training at equipment dealers to learn how to maintain high-tech farm equipment.

When asked by state legislators if he had any proposals that could help address the staffing problem, Smucker suggested that Pennsylvania’s previously incarcerated people could find jobs in the agricultural industry. I suggested creating a better route.

“The solution to our labor problem is to create better initiatives for those who are incarcerated or about to be released,” Smucker said. It may not seem like a sensible solution, but it’s best to address the problem by addressing the problem a few steps away from the actual problem and addressing the core issue at the heart of the problem. I believe that access to work by disadvantaged or underserved segments of our community is a starting point for addressing some key issues.”

He continues: [they] You have to make a fresh start with the desire to prove yourself.

Heather Lewis

Lancaster County farmer Heather Lewis shares the hurdles facing her farm with the House Republican Policy Committee (Capital Star, Pennsylvania).

Heather Lewis, a first-generation farmer also based in Lancaster County, said the uncertainty of the future is a stressor for her and her husband, Mike, due to inflation.

“Sometimes I can’t sleep,” Lewis told the committee, adding: “There’s a lot of uncertainty in farming.

While Lewis appreciates that his children are learning tough lessons about the realities of farming, it’s important to feed his children’s future on the farm and reduce financial risks by tightening his purse strings. I often find it stressful to find a balance between

“I’m glad they’re here, learning these lessons now and preparing for future opportunities,” Lewis said of the kids. We need to know that it brings opportunities in.”

For Bill Beam, president and owner of Beam Farms Inc. in Elverson, Chester County, rising equipment costs are making his farming business more difficult.

Beam described the sticker shock he felt when he recently went to a John Deere store to purchase a new piece of equipment and noticed a 25% increase in prices.

Similarly, Beam said ordering parts to repair existing equipment is expensive and an option, with waiting times for new parts of up to six months due to ongoing supply chain issues. is said to have decreased.

Beam said the company typically raises prices once a year, but he’s heard from employees that it’s already raising prices three times in 2022.

“Unfortunately inflation is here. It’s a reality,” Mr Beam told the committee.

Pennsylvania Capital Star State Newsroom is a network of similar news outlets supported by grants and Donors Coalition as a 501c(3) charitable organization.

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