CLARKS SUMMIT — Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and state Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich visited with area farmers at the Eckel farm on Falls Road Wednesday, June 1 to talk about state agriculture needs for the future.
Farms represented at the meeting included Fred W. Eckel Sons Farms, Inc., Brown Hill Farms, Manning Farm Dairy, Summit Harvest and Pallman Farms. Before their official meeting, which was closed to the media and public, they held a casual discussion, ranging in topic from labor problems to GMOs to food safety.
According to Brian Manning, land and labor issues are currently among top setbacks for area farmers.
“It’s just getting people who are willing to work,” he explained.
Keith Eckel said another problem is false information being sent to the public regarding GMOs. Others in the room agreed there is a great need for public education on the topic.
“Most people can’t even tell you what a GMO is,” Eckel said.
He added there is also a “disconnect” in food safety standards placed on the agriculture and retail industries.
For example, while he is required to spend thousands of dollars to make sure his tomatoes are clean before they go to the grocery store, once there, just about anything could happen to contaminate them. The produce might be placed on display near a bathroom, where a shopper may exit after not washing his or her hands, then he or she could go over and pick several up before placing one in his or her shopping cart.
“It’s critically important to have safe food,” Eckel said. “The approach that we’re taking just doesn’t make sense.”