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Shapiro Administration Tours Thiele Dairy Farm: 2024-’26 Budget Invests in Growing Family Businesses Like the Butler County Farm

06/13/2024

Governor Shapiro's $5.6 million Dairy Margin Coverage and $10 million Agriculture Innovation programs gain momentum with broad, bipartisan support in General Assembly

Cabot, PA – Today on a sixth-generation Butler County family dairy farm, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding viewed the kind of advances in productivity, sustainability, and risk-protection that will multiply with investments through Governor Josh Shapiro's Agriculture Innovation and Conservation, and Dairy Margin Coverage programs. Both investments will keep Pennsylvania's $132.5 billion agriculture industry a national leader in coming decades.

 “Family businesses like Theile Dairy Farm need to manage their risks today, and innovate to grow their businesses tomorrow," Secretary Redding said. “Constant changes in the environment, technology, and the marketplace demand new solutions to daily challenges on the farm. The Agriculture Innovation and Conservation program will put new ideas and technology into practice to increase farm profits, and make soil, water and food healthier. The Dairy Margin Coverage Financial Assistance Program will help cushion the blows that come with working in an uncertain, risky business. Both investments help farmers get stuff done."

The Governor's $10 million Agriculture Innovation and Conservation Program will help fund new solutions to complex agricultural and environmental challenges. The $5.6 million PA Dairy Margin Coverage Financial Assistance Program will pay a portion of the cost of enrolling in the federal program that reimburses farmers when their production costs fall below the level of coverage they have selected.

Joining Secretary Redding on the farm was Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chair Senator Elder Vogel, Jr., who is cosponsoring Senate Bill 1229 with Senator Judy Schwank. The bill, which creates the Dairy Margin Coverage Financial Assistance Program received the committee's unanimous support on June 4.  Also present was Representative Emily Kinkead, prime sponsor of House Bill 2309, the companion bill which unanimously passed the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee earlier.

House Bill 2310, which creates the Agriculture Innovation program also moved closer to becoming law with broad bipartisan support in the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

“Our agriculture industry stands as a mighty pillar that supports Pennsylvania's economy and way of life," said Senator Vogel. “Dairy farmers, like the Thieles, work tirelessly to not only provide quality dairy products to our communities but to make ends meet and keep their farms, and families, thriving. As an advocate for all our farmers, I am pleased to see how this industry is being prioritized, especially through this year's budget. From the western expansion of the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Lab to the Agriculture Innovation Grant Program to the Dairy Margin Coverage program assistance, it is clear our farmers statewide will benefit in the months to come."

The Agriculture Innovation and Conservation program would enable the PA Department of Agriculture to offer grants to farmers and other agriculture businesses to implement new agriculture technologies, conservation, and renewable energy innovations – expanding their potential  to generate profits, enrich soil and water resources, and produce energy on the farm.

Thiele Dairy Farm is run by twin brothers William and James Thiele and their parents Ed and Lorraine. The sixth-generation family farm includes a 40-cow dairy herd and 270 acres of crops managed using no-till and cover crops, conservation measures which increased their profits by $31 per acre in 2022. The brothers are also using drones to track cattle and survey crop conditions – an example of technological innovations that will be supported under the new Ag Innovation and Conservation Program.

"As a sixth-generation farm, we are no strangers to the challenges that come with farming," William Thiele said. “Having Governor Shapiro make agriculture a big part in the budget and having the legislature's support is great news for dairy farmers like us. We know many farms will be able to grow from these programs."

Governor Shapiro also proposed a new position in the Department of Agriculture – a dairy development specialist, who will advocate for Pennsylvania dairy farmers, helping them find new markets for their products and new avenues to grow their businesses. A proposed $5 million expansion of the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System's services will further support dairy farms in the western part of the state by making veterinary lab tests more accessible and speeding diagnosis and treatment.

These and other investments in the 2024-'25 budget complement Governor Josh Shapiro's Economic Development Strategy that recognizes agriculture along with life sciences, manufacturing, robotics, technology, and energy as key to our future economic success.

Learn more about investments in a strong future for Pennsylvania agriculture at shapirobudget.pa.gov.​


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