Pennsylvania works to keep the supply chain on track

Many state ag sectors face unique obstacles as the coronavirus complicates supply chains. From fruits and veggies to meat, Pennsylvania leaders discuss ways to keep production on track.

Farmers are familiar with unknowns but this year, the sector was thrown a curve ball with COVID-19. Pennsylvania Secretary of Ag, Russell Redding states, “Because it was in a free fall. We weren’t sure and this whiplash we went through in the market place.”

Reopening plans are helping some restaurants owners and food processors get back on track, but some supply chains are still behind. “They were really in a state of hurt for quite a while and some still are by the way, because they are also packaging for schools,” Secretary Redding states.

Modifying label regulations, federal aid, and connecting retailers with local producers set the stage for recovery. “To look at local food distribution and I think the COVID outbreak highlights how important that is, to have it as a backup system for distributing food and a good reason for growing it long-term,” according to the Dean of Penn State University, Rick Roush.

As supply chain disruptions in the protein sector forced more customers to seek local meat. Penn State plans to launch a butcher training program to bolster supplies. “We are taking a limited number of students who will be on the main campus for the first five months of training at our meat facility,” Roush states. “Among the things that I am hopeful for is by increasing the availability of butchers, we might be able to expand the local capacity.”

For other hard his sectors, like dairy, Pennsylvania is offering extra aid. “For dairy losses, we have the Dairy CARES Act, $15 million dollars... that program is available for dairies who have had to discard milk,” Redding adds.

Although the crisis highlighted some supply chain weak points, it also demonstrated the sector’s ability to innovate.

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