Ag in Balance White Paper (2008)

Agriculture in Balance: A Vision for Pennsylvania (2008)

Agriculture in Balance is profitable, productive, progressive, and proactive, preserving its rich heritage of community involvement and environmental stewardship to build a better Pennsylvania. It provides an abundant and diverse supply of safe food, fiber, fodder, and renewable fuel where farmsteads, towns, and cities are nestled within a healthy mosaic of fields, forests, pastures, woodlands, and flowing waters. Agriculture in Balance is engaged in every level of society from the local community to the nation's capital, providing equitable opportunities for livelihood and enrichment.

Unpacking the Vision

On November 16, 2007, The Pennsylvania State University hosted a workshop to create a vision, a word picture, of what Agriculture in Balance means for Pennsylvania. Workshop participants included elected local, county, and state officials; farmers; representatives from local, state, and federal agencies; farm organizations; academia; and nonprofit organizations. The information provided by the workshop participants was used to craft the vision stated above. There was considerable discussion as to the meaning and intent of various phrases and words in this vision. As with any vision statement, each of the words is packed with information. This white paper unpacks the vision statement so interested individuals and organizations can better understand what the vision for Agriculture in Balance in Pennsylvania means. In unpacking the vision, various phrases will be highlighted, followed by a synopsis of the discussion that occurred among workshop participants as to their understanding and intent of the words and phrases.

Agriculture in balance--A recent article in Penn State Agriculture discussed agriculture in Pennsylvania as being out of balance because of soil erosion; excess nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into streams and, eventually, the Chesapeake Bay; contribution of manure applications to groundwater pollution; and putting marginal land into production (view the article at A future with Agriculture in Balance has resolved these issues by reducing soil erosion to natural background levels, putting nutrients into agricultural commodities rather than streams and bays, and making productive alternatives with agricultural residues, with marginal land contributing to greater societal uses.

Profitable and productive--Agriculture in Balance is both profitable and productive. Agriculture is a business. Peter Drucker said the purpose of business is to create and satisfy needs in society and to give back to the community. Being profitable means the products have value and society's needs are met. Value-added products are an integral part of production. Increased efficiency, improved management practices, better use of existing markets, and new goods and services all contribute to greater productivity.

Progressive and proactive--Agriculture in Balance has an entrepreneurial mindset, continually acting on and creating new markets and products in response to consumer needs and societal trends. Agriculture is proactive in becoming both energy independent and an energy supplier for the region through wind, solar power, biogas, renewable fuels, and other energy sources. It provides testing grounds for concepts ranging from pollutant trading to carbon credits, to integrated best management practices, and the development of new and emerging markets.

Preserving its rich heritage of community involvement--From barn raisings, food depots, service, fairs, and 4-H youth development, farmers and agricultural organizations have always been involved in community activities. Agriculture in Balance supports research, education, and civil society organizations in their mission to improve the quality of life in the local and global communities.

Environmental stewardship--While ecosystem goods and services represent a new framework for environmental assessment, this concept is historical in agriculture. Soil formation, closed nutrient cycling, erosion control, diverse and balanced fish and wildlife populations, and water infiltration are all part of good agricultural practices and environmental stewardship. Ecosystem services are protected, sustained, and restored to nurture the production of agricultural goods. Agriculture in Balance provides ecosystem services upstream that contribute to increased social, environmental, and economic capital downstream throughout Pennsylvania.

To build a better Pennsylvania--Agriculture is an integral part of the social, economic, and environmental fabric of Pennsylvania, contributing to an improved quality of life throughout the Commonwealth and surrounding region. Agriculture in Balance provides the natural and cultural amenities people enjoy in living and visiting rural areas--fields of clover and soybeans, verdant hillsides, clean streams, abundant birds and wildlife, and peaceful glens. Agriculture makes a $45 billion economic contribution to building a better Pennsylvania.

An abundant and diverse supply--Abundance and diversity exist not only in types of agricultural products--from organically grown vegetables to hybrid corn, heritage horses to livestock, fruits and nuts to milk chocolate--but also in size and types of producers. Farms range in size from family-owned orchards and gardens that supply local markets to large corporate farms providing grain, meat, milk, and eggs to global markets.

Safe food, fiber, fodder, and renewable fuel--Regardless of the produce, all agricultural foodstuffs from fruits and vegetables to animal feed and products--are safe to eat and handle. Humane husbandry practices are used in both raising and processing animals. But agriculture is more than just food. It is also a source of fiber, building materials, and renewable energy, from switchgrass, grain, and timber to methane from manure and other agricultural byproducts.

Farmsteads, towns, and cities are nestled within a healthy mosaic of fields, forests, pastures, woodlands, and flowing waters--Humans are part of, not apart from, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The landscape consists of towns and cities nestled within a mosaic of fields, pastures, and forests that sustain its healthy streams. Wildlife habitat and resting areas for migrating neotropical birds are part of this rich and diverse mosaic. Various best management practices enhance agricultural, terrestrial, and aquatic ecosystems.

Engaged in every level of society from the local community to the nation's capital--Agriculture in Balance raises leaders who care for the health and welfare of their communities and states and want to be part of the democratic process of governance. These individuals contribute to informed legislation and policy on issues ranging from agricultural practices and economics to smart growth in the local community, county, and state. These leaders also contribute to informed national legislation and policy on free market incentives that support diverse agricultural opportunities in Pennsylvania and the global marketplace.

Equitable opportunities for livelihood and enrichment--Agriculture in Pennsylvania is known for its rich diversity of ethnicity, gender, and age. Agricultural vocation and employment is open to anyone. Individual lives are enriched because their unique talents and abilities can be used and recognized, and these individuals can see the difference their efforts make in improving the environmental, social, and economic welfare of Pennsylvania. Agriculture in Balance raises leaders by positively touching every facet of their lives.

Vision Participants--Creation and Review

  • Bill Angstadt, Maryland/Delaware Agribusiness Association
  • Doug Beegle, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Rob Brooks, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Karl Brown, State Conservation Commission
  • Dave Day, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
  • Craig Derickson, Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Matt Ehrhart, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Elam Herr, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors
  • Brian Hill, Pennsylvania Environmental Council
  • John Hines, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
  • Keith Hite, Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors
  • Betsy Huber, Pennsylvania Grange
  • Susan Marquart, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts
  • Bob McKinstry, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP
  • Rob Meinen, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Mike Pechart, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
  • Daphne Pee, Mid-Atlantic Water Program
  • Walt Peechatka, PennAg Industries
  • Russell Redding, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
  • Lou Sallie, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
  • Mary Seaton, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Kevin Sellner, Chesapeake Research Consortium
  • Brenda Shambaugh, Pennsylvania Association of
  • Conservation Districts
  • Dick Shellenberger, Pennsylvania Association of County Commissioners
  • Jim Shortle, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Gary Smith, Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Gary Swan, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
  • Paul Swartz, Susquehanna River Basin Commission
  • Steve Taglang, Pennsylvania Department of
  • Environmental Protection
  • Scott VandeMark, Pennsylvania Environmental Council
  • Mary Wirth, The Pennsylvania State University
  • George Wolffe, Wolffe Consultants