Bill would make PA Preferred Organic Program permanent

Two Pennsylvania state reps are hoping to make an initiative aimed at helping the state’s farmers a permanent program. 

State Reps. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, and Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, introduced H.B. 157 this week to make the PA Preferred Organic Program a permanent trademark in Pennsylvania.  

The initiative began as part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill 2019. 

Since then, the PA Preferred Organic Program has been used to increase market opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers. 

Madden said the program supports the farmers and others in the agriculturall industry who have helped make the state the top producing state for organic mushrooms, livestock and poultry, and third in the nation in organic agriculture sales. 

“Pocono Organics in Monroe County provides not only a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables to purchase but has a litany of programs for children of all ages, veterans and adults,” Madden said. “PA Preferred Organic businesses grow all foods under the sun that are healthy for us, and that alone should be a reason to make the program permanent in our commonwealth.” 

Pashinski, who has served as the democratic chair of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee since 2017, noted that there are 1,125 certified organic farms and 104,805 acres of certified organic land in the state. 

 “Pennsylvanians care about what they eat and are looking for nutrition, quality, quantity and variety in the organic foods at their markets and grocery stores,” Pashinski said. “The Pa Preferred Organic Program allows consumers to know that they’re purchasing the highest quality products grown in PA, by PA Farmers, for PA families – that’s why it’s PA Preferred! By making Pennsylvania-produced organic products even more readily available and identifiable, our farmers can continue benefiting from this rapidly expanding market.” 

He noted that the program would not compete with other state producers but would simply enhance Pennsylvania’s program and create opportunities for residents to more easily identify and purchase locally grown foods.  

The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. 


Rodale receives $3M grant for science center building project

The Rodale Institute accepted a $3 million state grant during a recent event in Kutztown. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

The Rodale Institute of Kutztown has received a $3 million grant to support the institute’s new science center building project. 

State Senator Judy Schwank, D-Berks, who serves as the Democratic chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, presented the grant. 

“Having a world-renowned educational leader right here in Berks County brings an immense sense of pride to our community,” said Schwank. “The new state-of-the-art facility that will be established here will allow Rodale to continue impacting the worldwide push to adopt regenerative agricultural systems in addition to impacting local supply of organic healthy food.” 

The $3 million grant is funded by the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. This investment will support Rodale Institute’s scientific research designed to build a healthier and regenerative food system and mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Rodale Institute’s CEO Jeff Moyer spoke about the organization’s recent growth and highlighted the fact that the institute now has nine research locations across the globe.  

“More people than ever are interested in organic food, but they want to know that there’s a social justice component to the way food is being produced—that people who are growing that food are treated fairly, that animal welfare is a priority, and of course, consumers want to know that in the process of producing organic food, we are managing our soils in a way that regenerates them and makes them healthier for future generations,” said Moyer. 


Rodale Institute, Kutztown University sign research agreement for organic farming

Officials from Kutztown University and the Rodale Institute sign an academic research agreement. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

The Rodale Institute announced Monday that it has signed a five-year academic research agreement with Kutztown University.

The institute, located less than six miles from the Kutztown campus, will provide students and faculty the opportunity to partner with its personnel and researchers around the world on field research in the areas of soil health and regenerative organic farming practices. Students can learn about pest management, composting, pollination and internship opportunities will be made available to students.

“I’m honored to sign this agreement today with one of the premier research organizations in the world,” said Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, Kutztown University president. “This is a great opportunity to market Kutztown University’s new track in regenerative organic agriculture, among our many programmatic areas. One of the greatest benefits from this collaboration are the mutual networking opportunities we will have to educate our audiences about the mission of our organizations.”

Kutztown University offers classes in biology, chemistry, environmental science and a track in regenerative organic agriculture.

Through the agreement, students and faculty in those areas will have access to Rodale’s research facility, including field laboratories, in-house laboratories, crop, livestock areas and research facilities.

“Rodale Institute and Kutztown University are neighbors and logical partners in this endeavor to launch the first regenerative organic educational tract in the world,” said Jeff Tkach, chief impact officer for Rodale Institute. “We are backed by a state government and Department of Agriculture that is investing in the future of regenerative organic farming. Together, we will continue to position Pennsylvania as the leader in organic agriculture and a center of innovation and education for the next generation of farmers and food entrepreneurs.”

Giant makes $1.2 million donation to promote organic farming

Rodale Institute farmer interns, beneficiaries of The Giant Co. donation, pose with company representatives to celebrate $1.2 million raised by the Healing Our Planet campaign. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

Fulfilling a pledge it made earlier this year, The Giant Co. has made a $1.2 million donation to the Rodale Institute in Kutztown.

The funds were raised through the grocery store chain’s “Healing our Planet” campaign, which ran between March and May. It encouraged customers to round up their checkout purchases to the nearest dollar to support various organic and sustainability programs, including Rodale.

The funds will go towards Rodale’s Farmer Training Program as well as farmer consulting services and research projects to help farmers transition to organic agriculture.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see the outpouring of support not only from The GIANT Company but from their customers for regenerative organic agriculture,” said Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute CEO. “We’ve always felt that the consumer is the heart and soul of the regenerative organic movement. Now, customers have not only taken home beautiful organic food to feed their families but have helped support our work to build a regenerative organic future.”

The Rodale Institute has been conducting research into regenerative organic agriculture, as well as farmer training and education opportunities, since 1947, and currently operates eight campuses in four states.

Bell & Evans pledges $500 million to help nation’s farmers convert to organic

Bell & Evans’ Organic Feed Bins at its Organic Chicken Hatchery


A Berks County-base poultry producer is investing more than $500 million over the next five years to encourage farmers to go organic both in Pennsylvania and around the country.

Bell & Evans, one of the largest organic chicken producers in the world, is partnering with the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, and Cargill to incentivize farmers to switch traditional grain crops to organic grain crops with the promise of contracts, funding and technical help.

“This is really a big deal,” said Jeff Tkach chief impact officer at the Rodale Institute. “This is the first public, private partnership that removes the barriers most farmers face in converting to organic.”

Bell & Evens, which has been experiencing rapid growth, said it has a need for a larger supply of certified U.S. organic soy beans and corn to maintain that growth.

The Bell & Evans Organic Grain Initiative aims to transition 50,000 acres of U.S. corn and soybeans to certified organic production over the next five years.

Farmers have said their biggest organic-transition hurdles have been knowing where to start, finding education and resources for successful organic land management, and a guaranteed market.

“First, is the lack the ability and knowledge to go organic,” Tkach said.

He said that is where Rodale’s more than 70 years of experience in organic farming will come into play with education and assistance to the farmers.

The initiative will also pay a premium on grain from their producers during the transition from traditional farming to organic, to guarantee the market and offset expenses.

Tkach said farmers need to allot resources to transitioning, which they have often been unwilling to do, because there was no guarantee they would maintain their contracts with users after the transition.  This would solidify those contracts.

Once the transition is complete, Tkach said most farmers earn three to six times more profits off organic grain than traditionally grown grain, which should make the conversion worthwhile.

The $500 million allotted for the initiative will go towards contracts, infrastructure to maintain, transport and document the organic grain and to pay for the education and support provided by Rodale.

“We want to establish trust, transparency and loyalty with our grain farmers for the success and longevity of the program,” said Bell & Evans executive vice president Margo Sechler. “The farmer wins from this partnership, as do Bell & Evans, Cargill, Rodale Institute and all Bell & Evans customers who pay a premium for our organic chicken and can trust they are getting true organic product.”

According to Bell & Evans, only 1% of total U.S. farm acreage is currently certified organic.

Meanwhile, it said the organic food market is a growing $50 billion industry.

National organic food sales rose 4.6% in 2019 according to the Organic Trade Association.

In 2020, Bell & Evans experienced 25% growth in organic chicken sales and projects growth of 27% in 2021 and 17-20% each year after that, through 2024.