CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The goal of Ag Progress Days is in the name: progress. On the second day of the exposition, Pennsylvania’s agriculture community had the opportunity to hear from and speak with state lawmakers, including Representative Glenn Thompson and Senator Bob Casey.

“Right now, there are critical shortfalls of young and beginning farmers and ranchers,” Representative Thompson said. “The average age of a farmer in this country is 57 and a half.”

With about 52,000 farms across Pennsylvania, Thompson and Casey said the passion needs to be passed on to younger generations.

“They’re the ones that are going to chart the future. It won’t be a speech from a politician that’ll do it,” Casey said.  “We just have to make sure that we lift them up.” 

This July, Representative Thompson introduced the Young Farmer Success Act providing student loan payback incentives.

He said no industry faces a greater risk.

“They face tough odds by the very nature of the business whether it be weather, natural disasters, input costs, or workforce needs,” Thompson said. “But the failure of American agriculture is not an option and food security is national security.”

Thompson said the risk is worth the reward.

“It’s just something about working with the soil,” Thompson said.

Since 1940, the agriculture industry has grown about 300%. Thompson said he wants to reach 400 percent growth by 2035.

“I think we can do that with the types of innovation, science, and technology that really defines the American agriculture,” Thompson said.

“We should be commending and saluting those farmers who see beyond the years to make sure that we have enough to eat, this week, next week, next month, 5 years from now, 20 years from now, 100 years from now, because those are the people in our commonwealth and across the country who are literally inventing the future,” Senator Casey said.

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The final Ag Progress day this year is tomorrow, Thursday, August 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.