PENNSYLVANIA (WTAJ) – Governor Josh Shapiro toured Flinchbaugh’s Orchard and Farm Market in Hellam on Friday to highlight his investments in Pennsylvania agriculture.

Shapiro along with Department of Agriculture Acting Secretary Russell Redding toured the grounds and discussed plans to protect valuable farmland, further agricultural emergency preparedness and response and expanding organic farming.

Pennsylvania’s agriculture sector is a major economic driver for the Commonwealth, contributing $132,000,000,000 a year to the economy and making up 1 in 10 jobs in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is also third in the nation for organic sales, with more than $1 billion in sales last year and more than 1,100 certified organic farms across the Commonwealth and Governor Shapiro’s budget proposed a $1,000,000 investment for the creation of a new Organic Center of Excellence to build on Pennsylvania’s history of organic leadership.

Last month, Governor Shapiro unveiled his first budget proposal filled with commonsense solutions to the most pressing issues Pennsylvanians face.

The Governor’s budget proposes critical investments to support farmers and the agriculture industry, including:

  • $31 million: to help poultry farmers impacted by the avian flu crisis pay for testing and get reimbursed.
  • $13.8 million: to fully fund the Pennsylvania Farm Bill for the fifth year.
  • $2.5 million: for the Farmland Preservation Program that helps ensure that resources for counties will be available to produce food and feed Pennsylvania’s economy.
  • $2 million: an investment in the Fresh Food Financing Initiative that will contribute to better health outcomes by improving access to PA-grown, processed, and produced foods.
  • $1 million: to create a new Organic Center of Excellence, which will grow the state’s ability to support this sector of the industry.
  • $500,000: to create a Center for Plant Excellence that will expand supply chain opportunities and boost resources available to Pennsylvania’s diverse plant industries.
  • $200,000: investment for farmer mental health will provide support services such as a mental health hotline, specialized trainings, and outreach to the agricultural community.

“There is a direct connection between our farmers’ hard work and the food on our kitchen tables and in our stores – and my budget includes investments that will support Pennsylvania farmers all across the Commonwealth,” Governor Josh Shapiro said. “I believe Pennsylvania can be the top organic farming state in the nation, but we need to give our farmers the resources and support they need to make it happen. It’s our responsibility to make sure the next generation of Flinchbaughs have the opportunity to continue that legacy – and we can only do it by working together.”

The Flinchbaugh Orchard and Farm Market has been in the Flinchbaugh family for three generations. Last year, the Flinchbaughs received the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award, which recognizes farmers who go above and beyond to care for land, water, and wildlife habitats.

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“The Flinchbaughs have demonstrated that you can do things well alone, but with good partners, you can go farther. They have paid attention,” Acting Secretary Russell Redding said. “Governor Shapiro is paying attention too. He has heard what farmers need to feed us every day, and his proposed budget investments will support our industry and help families like the Flinchbaughs stay open for business, not just tomorrow, but years down the road.”