Farmers Union Salutes Women in Agriculture and Their Invaluable Role in Family Farming

February 3, 2015 in Uncategorized, Women in Agriculture

Yeehaw Farm

Farmers Union member Judi Radel. Yeehaw Farm. Duncannon, PA

Women have always played a critical role in family farming, and that role is increasing dramatically as the number of women who are farmers in the U.S. has grown to roughly one million strong, according to the most recent U.S. Ag Census [Pennsylvania data]. If you look around at the success of rural America, it’s clear that the future of farming is in good hands, and that is due in no small part to the growing contributions of women in agriculture.

Of course, women have always made major contributions on America’s farms, but their role as the primary operators tripled from 1978 to 2007. According to the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture, “While women farm in every state across the country, women farm in the highest numbers in the Northeast, West Coast and parts of the Southwest…Many New England states…have some of the highest percentages of women farming – with over a third of their state’s farming populations comprised of women.”

But the growing role of women in agriculture is not limited to just the United States. Globally, it is estimated that women produce about 80 percent of the world’s food supply, which underscores the role women play now and moving forward.

Since its founding in 1902, Farmers Union has recognized the important and growing role played by women in agriculture – both as leaders and as principal farm operators – and since 1906, has had women elected to leadership positions within the organization. NFU’s long history of having women in leadership positions and advocating for women’s voting rights, both within the organization and in local, state and national government, has allowed us to provide a more progressive and balanced voice for all family farmers for more than a century. Farmers Union decided early on not to have a ‘women’s auxiliary’ because the organization believes strongly that women should have a seat, and equal opportunity to lead, at the policy table and not just serve on the sidelines.

Over the years, NFU has developed educational programming and outreach tools to identify and empower women to help improve their farming skills. This outreach, which includes business acumen, leadership training and hands-on practical experience is helping women succeed in their growing role on the nation’s farms and in its farm organizations.

One example is NFU’s annual women’s conference, which works to give participants with the tools they need to succeed on the farm and leading farm organizations. Internationally, NFU is also a very involved member of the World Farmers Organization (WFO), an international farm organization which aims to bring together national producer and farm cooperative organizations to develop policies which favor and support farmers’ causes in developed and developing countries around the world.

The WFO has been key in pointing out the many barriers faced by women in agriculture across the globe, including impediments to land ownership and credit and markets that are not faced by their male counterparts. NFU is committed to working with the WFO to address these disparities and make positive steps toward having these barriers removed permanently.

Interested in learning more about the NFU Women’s Conference and opportunities for women? Visit the NFU website.

2014 Convention is a Great Success!

December 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

If you missed this year’s convention, you missed a great one! Take a minute to view scenes from the day by clicking here to get just a glimpse of everything that transpired!

Annual Convention December 6, 2014

November 11, 2014 in Convention

Morning Ag Clips w chicken blue

RSVP for the Membership Meeting (9-11:30), Public Welcome (11:45)
Lunch (12-1), Speakers (1-4:45) and/or Reception (5-7).

About Terra Brownback About Senator Mike Folmer About Elanor Starmer

Pennsylvania Farmers Union Annual Convention

Free & Open to the Public with RSVP ~Ÿ Free Parking

Members Only Meeting: 9:00-11:30 ~Ÿ Public Welcome 11:45

Lunch is free to members or $15 at door with RSVP ~ Speakers 1pm-5pm

Local Foods and Brew Reception 5pm-7pm

Agricultural Leadership Awards: Jane Alexander, Esq & Dale Snyder

Come for all or part of the day…We’d love to see you!

Breakout Sessions: 2015 Policy Priorities | Organic Checkoff Panel | Your Farm’s Viability in a Changing Food System

2014 Agricultural Voters Guide: PA Gubernatorial Race Exclusive!

October 13, 2014 in Advocate newsletter, Uncategorized

Farmers Vote
Farmers Union offers this Gubernatorial Race Exclusive: Statements from the candidates on why they deserve your vote!
Your vote matters! Visit to confirm your polling location.
Click here to download this document as a pdf.
Excerpts and reprinting permissible with credit to Pennsylvania Farmers Union.
Agriculture, Pennsylvania’s number one industry, has not played a prominent role in the gubernatorial race. Farmers Union offers this exclusive: Statements from each candidate on why they deserve the farmers’ vote! 

Local Farmers Meet with Lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

September 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

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IMG_5191Pennsylvania Farmers Union members and nearly 250 fellow farmers, ranchers and fishermen from across the country met in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8 to 10, 2014, for the National Farmers Union annual Fall Legislative Fly-In.

“Meeting with our representatives in Congress allowed us to personalize the issues currently affecting farmers and their customers on a national level,” PFU Vice-President Heidi Secord (Monroe Co.) said. “This is especially important considering the fact that important legislation is under attack and there are oversight hearings about the new Farm Bill. Having the opportunity to voice our concerns directly to policymakers is one of the most important ways we can make a difference for all family farmers and ranchers.”

While in Washington, D.C., fly-in participants met with members of Congress, focusing on four priority issues: opposing any legislative changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and rejecting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s flawed proposal for 2014 blending targets; stopping any effort to undermine Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL); bringing attention to rail issues in the Midwest; and ensuring the Trade-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the U.S. and 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region is not supported in its current form. “America’s farmers are ready, willing and able to play a vital role in educating consumers about where their food comes from, decreasing America’s dependency on foreign oil, and addressing rail transportation issues in the Midwest. With the right policies in place we can continue to feed the world and fuel the future,” NFU President Roger Johnson said.

Fly-in participants presented the organization’s highest honor, the Golden Triangle Award, to a bipartisan group of 40 senators and representatives who have demonstrated leadership on issues relevant to America’s family farmers, ranchers and rural communities. This included Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, representing Pennsylvania’s 8th district, for his 2014 voting record.

The fly-in also included a Monday morning visit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture where Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and other USDA officials briefed participants and took questions on pending agriculture issues, as well as briefings with White House staff members on the subjects of immigration as it pertains to farmworkers, agriculture-related initiatives and rural affairs.

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Family Farming: Doing our part to support veterans as beginning farmers & ranchers

July 15, 2014 in International Year of Family Farming

Veterans iconIn the United States, farmers are getting older, farms are getting bigger, and the number of farms is decreasing. According the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), between 2007 and 2012 the United States saw a net decrease of 95,489 farms. The most recent census showed that the average age of a farmer is 57, up from 54 in 1997. This may not be news to some, but it creates real problems in rural America.

The quality of life in rural communities depends on its people. Not long ago, rural communities were sustained by a robust segment of the population actively involved in agriculture. However, due various factors, making a living in agriculture became tough. Farmers sold their land and moved to urban areas where there was more opportunity. Big farms swallowed up smaller farms. With fewer and fewer farmers, rural communities began to suffer. There is now an acute need for new, beginning and transitioning farmers and ranchers to enter the agriculture sector.

Getting into farming isn’t easy. Access to capital, financing and land are major hurdles that potential farmers face. Technical expertise is also often lacking, so a strong support system is needed to fill the gaps. Luckily, the 2014 farm bill provides various incentives to make it easier to get into agriculture.

An unlikely place to look for new and beginning farmers is in our nation’s veterans. USDA data shows that although rural Americans make up only 17 percent of the population, it accounts for 44 percent of the military. When soldiers return home from tours abroad, they are looking for a career that gives them a sense of purpose. Since many are from rural communities, farming can provide an excellent way for our men and women in uniform to make a valuable contribution here at home.

Farmers Union is doing its part to support beginning, new and transitioning farmers and ranchers. Besides working with the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the National Young Farmers Coalition, we are championing policies on Capitol Hill that support veterans and beginning farmers in general, National Farmers Union created and implements the Beginning Farmers Institute (BFI). This is a unique program that develops and encourages agricultural leaders from all backgrounds. Leadership training and farm management skills are taught to promising individuals eager to enter or expand their agricultural operations.

Farmers Union is proud to have represented family farmers and ranchers since 1902. We will continue to support policies that encourage new and beginning farmers to enter agriculture.

Family Farm Advocate: Gubernatorial Candidates want the Farmer’s Vote in the PA Primary

May 14, 2014 in Advocate newsletter, Uncategorized

Farmers Union hears from all five of Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates about why each believes they deserve the farmer’s vote in the upcoming Primary Election on May 20. Plus, updates on recent activities and opportunities.

2014 International Year of Family Farming

February 1, 2014 in International Year of Family Farming, Uncategorized

LOGO_IYFF_horizontal-EN2014 is the International Year of Family Farming

By Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President

When National Farmers Union was founded in 1902, most of the population of the United States had a direct connection to a farmer, if they were not involved in farming personally. While those of us presently involved in farming, ranching and other agricultural pursuits hold tight to the connection, the reality is that the average American is several generations removed from the source of their food supply. This fact creates a critical need for all of us to continue to spread the message of the importance of family farming to everyone in America and around the world.

The United Nations (UN) has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). National Farmers Union is proud to be leading the U.S. National Committee in support of the year. With family farming in the spotlight on an international stage, now is the time to capitalize on this opportunity and spread the word about the work family farmers are doing each and every day.

Family farming is so much more than cows and plows. Family farmers, ranchers and fishermen are working to provide food, feed, fiber and fuel for our country and the world. Through advancement of technology, conservation practices and other methodology, today’s family farmers are able to provide for more people while utilizing fewer resources. There are more than 313 million people living in the United States. Of that, less than one percent claim farming as an occupation, and about two percent actually live on farms. It is astonishing to think that only about 2.2 million farms in the United States provide all of those people with nourishment.

Family farmers are the original environmentalists. When it comes to our nation’s fuel supply, our family farmers, ranchers and rural residents are a practical source for leading the charge in producing biofuels, wind energy and other alternatives that continue to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, and improve our national security. While working to provide both food and fuel, our farmers are strive to utilize practices that will conserve and improve the land while lessening the impact on the environment for the success of future generations of family farmers.

As National Farmers Union continues to celebrate family farming, we encourage you to get involved. Be on the lookout for future events and other activities where you can make an impact! Are you a member of your local Farmers Union? If you aren’t, join today! Becoming a member is the first step in bringing your voice to the table on many levels, opens the door to educational opportunities for you and your family, and continues to support the future of family farming in our country.

New Year: Same Priorities

December 31, 2013 in Farm Bill, Uncategorized

2014 may be a new year, but the priorities haven’t changed!

we need a farm bill

We need a new, comprehensive five-year farm bill. We don’t need another extension — we need the certainty of a five-year bill. The farm bill is a vital piece of legislation for family farmers, ranchers and growers across the country. It is a fiscally responsible bill that saves taxpayer dollars while protecting our nation’s food security and environmental health. The following priorities must be included:

  • Do not rescind existing permanent farm bill law. Reinstate the permanent farm bill provisions from 1938 and 1949 as the underlying legislation. Permanent law provides an incentive for Congress to periodically review farm programs and ensure they are still relevant and working properly;
  • Include fixed reference prices, such as those proposed by the House bill’s commodity title, to provide protection against price collapse rather than basing price protection on a rolling Olympic average, as in the Senate bill;
  • Include a dairy program that provides protection against rising production costs and market collapse and establishes an inventory management program that is geared toward family farmers, as in the Senate bill;
  • Provide $900 million of mandatory funding for energy title programs, as in the Senate bill, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) Biorefinery Assistance Program and Biobased Markets Program;
  • Oppose the House version’s additional, unnecessary studies on the implementation of Country- of-Origin Labeling (COOL), which is already the law of the land, and resist any efforts to under- mine COOL law; and
  • Reauthorize and fund the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program at the House bill’s level, which provides funding for programs that expand important food systems in one of the fastest-growing areas in agriculture.

PFU comments on FSMA

November 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

#fixFSMAFamily farms will be greatly impacted by the FDA’s proposed rules associated with the new Food Safety Modernization Act. Today, Pennsylvania Farmers Union submitted comments on behalf of our membership and we wanted to share those with you. We welcome your feedback as we are hopeful there will be a second-round comment period. If you are still planning on making comments today but need some help, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has a handy walkthrough for you!

Comments on the Standards for Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption Docket No. FDA – 2011-N-0921 and the Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls for Human Food Docket No. FDA -2011-N-0920

Submitted at by: Pennsylvania Farmers Union

The Pennsylvania Farmers Union (PFU), a membership organization, is committed to enhancing the quality of life of family farmers throughout our Commonwealth.  Our 600 members include farmers, foresters, horticulturalists, consumers, farm organizations and cooperatives.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the associated rules being established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have the potential to fundamentally reshape local food markets. We have serious concerns the proposed rules will impede local food access and growth in a market that is flourishing right now. We are concerned for the future of family farms, many of which are viable for the first time in a generation (and are increasingly being stewarded by younger farmers, many of whom are women, minorities and veterans). Diversified farms, often offering the full range of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs and meat, are most at risk of having their futures be jeopardized.

Any rules relevant to the FSMA must:

  • Be scale and market appropriate
  • Be based on sound science
  • Be administered by agencies that understand farming systems (in particular diversified and aggregating, whole-systems practices)
  • Be reasonable and affordable with regard to documentation requirements

We have a deep appreciation for and applaud the FSMA’s focus on prevention. That said, our members have serious concerns about the associated rules as proposed by the FDA.

Feedback we have received from our members reflect the following concerns:

  • The need for a second comment period after an initial drawing up of rules based on the current comment period. The rules associated with FSMA stand to have such a significant impact on farmers, it is imperative that extremely careful consideration be given to ensure a thoroughly thought-out set of rules.
  • The lack of clarity with regard to the definitions of “farm” and “facility”, as well as “farming activities” and “manufacturing activities”, potentially subjecting farms that pose minimal safety risks to an inappropriate level of regulation.
  • A basic lack of understanding on the part of FDA of diversified farm systems and emerging and innovative markets in the farming sector
  • Lack of clarity with regard to “mixed type facilities” and under which set of rules any specific farm falls: Produce Safety and/or Preventative Control
  • Exemptions, particularly as they relate to diversified systems, food hubs and aggregating cooperatives
  • Impacts on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and cooperative food distribution systems
  • Rules regarding retail food establishments, specifically that they don’t include CSAs and farmstands
  • Gross sales thresholds that clearly do not reflect an understanding of, and in fact penalize, diversified and flexible farming operations
  • Rules that conflict with GAP and NOP programs
  • Issues of competition that put domestic producers at a disadvantage compared to those importing food from other countries
  • Application interval requirements for animal-derived biological soil amendments that are not based on sound science
  • Water testing requirements for irrigation that are not based on sound science
  • Environmental impacts of rules that could encourage the reversal of conservation practices such as wildlife habitat and riparian buffers, practices which are beneficial not only to the watersheds that feed farms but to farm systems themselves
  • Coordination of efforts between state agricultural departments and federal agencies, including a clear line of authority
  • A climate of ‘fear of prosecution’ as opposed to one emphasizing assistance and training
  • Lack of clarity regarding due process resulting from withdrawal of qualified exemptions


We urge you to consider a second comment period after the above concerns have been addressed and thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully submitted,

Pennsylvania Farmers Union