All of us know that the threats to agriculture in the coming years are many and varied. The global economy continues to drive many changes. The involvement of agriculture as a source of energy adds many new variables to the picture. Genetic engineering involves moral and market decisions for producers. Responding to our environmental responsibilities while continuing to stay productive adds another set of challenges.
At the farm level
We see the interaction of technology and workforce issues as some of the most difficult with which a producer must contend. We continue to see the need to increase the scale of our operations to remain competitive. Often, this means that our families do not provide enough manpower to get the basic tasks done. We continue to hire more and more non-family workers who may or may not have the skills that we need. For many of our workers, communicating in English is alone a challenge.
When we combine this situation with the increasingly complex set of knowledge and skills that are needed to run agricultural operations, we realize that we may be on the verge of a workforce crisis. Add to this the fact that the pipeline from school to work for agricultural careers from farmer to veterinarian to equipment mechanics is virtually empty...and we realize that the crisis is not in the future...it is now.
Over the last four years, the Center of Excellence in Production Agriculture has been providing high quality training through a variety of vendors that include the Center for Dairy Excellence, the Penn State Dairy Alliance, the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, the Lancaster County Conservation District, and Cooperative Extension Services of Lancaster County to producers in Lancaster County and around the Commonwealth. The Center provides subsidies for farmers to attend the PA Dairy Summit, the Profit Team Training workshops, the DART program and other events in the dairy and poultry communities. It has sponsored specific training in dairy feeding, reproduction, flock management, and manure hauling. Many of the offerings are done in English and in Spanish.
For this year, there is a full schedule planned including training in the maintenance of farm equipment, artificial insemination and advanced reproduction, Dairy Beef Quality Assurance program, farm safety, and dairy nutrition and risk management as well as courses in e-coli and listeria control. The Center will be sponsoring a variety of programs related to energy efficiency and alternative energy production through its partnership with Cooperative Extension and conservation through the Lancaster County Conservation District. Gary Willier at the Lancaster Chamber is the Project Manager for the Center and can be reached at (717) 397-3531 ext. 134.