Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary: Food Security Begins on the Farm, Farmers Urged to Maintain Stringent Biosecurity Practices

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and State Veterinarian Dr. Kevin Brightbill were joined by industry experts at Country View Family Farms of Hatfield Quality Meats to remind farmers the importance of written biosecurity and continuity of operations plans, and following them strictly, to the overall health and wellbeing of both their business operations and food security of the nation.

“If we’ve learned anything over the past seven months, it’s that disease travels quickly, its effects are widespread, and minimizing risk is paramount,” said Redding. “We’ve also learned that the food supply chain has many points of susceptibility.

“Farmers: your biosecurity and continuity of operations plans are the first line of defense,” added Redding. “Providing a sustainable, safe, and secure food supply for our commonwealth and beyond starts with you.”

From the beginning of the pandemic in Pennsylvania, the agriculture industry was deemed essential for a secure food supply. While the department issued guidance for the industry to safely continue operations as COVID-19 washed across Pennsylvania – including guidance for Farms and On-Farm Deliveries and Farmers Markets and On-Farm Markets – the industry was no stranger to managing operations in a manner that presented with the least risk possible.

In agriculture, biosecurity means doing everything you can to reduce the chances of an infectious disease being carried onto your farm by people, animals, products, equipment, or vehicles. It also means doing everything you can to reduce the chance a disease leaving your farm. The health of local herds and flocks contributes to the health of our nation’s animal agriculture industry, and the health of the agriculture industry determines the safety, availability, and affordability for food.

 Agricultural biosecurity plans include the following commonsense measures:

  • Keep distance – restrict access to property and livestock or poultry and do not allow visitors near animals unless absolutely necessary;
  • Keep it clean – farm manager, staff, and family should follow biosecurity procedures for cleanliness including wearing clean clothes, scrubbing shoes with disinfectant, thoroughly washing hands, and keeping equipment clean;
  • Don’t borrow disease from your neighbor – avoid sharing equipment, tools, or other supplies with neighbors; if you do borrow, clean and disinfect before they reach your property;
  • Always be on the lookout for infectious diseases – know what diseases are of concern and monitor animals for signs or behavior consistent with disease; early detection is critical;
  • Report sick animals – always report serious or unusual animal health problems to your veterinarian, local extension office, and Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture State Animal Health Official can be reached 24/7 by calling (717) 772 -2852 and pressing option 1 to report an increased morbidity or mortality in your herd or flock that is unusual and could be associated with a potential foreign animal or high consequence disease.

“Don’t wait for tomorrow – take steps today to prevent catastrophic loss of your herd, your flock, and your livelihood,” said Brightbill. “Review your biosecurity plans, strengthen them, and retrain your farm hands by working with your herd or flock veterinarian. It’s game day and all 12 million Pennsylvanians are counting on you. With less than 2 percent of America feeding the world, we cannot afford to lose even one of you.”

In addition to biosecurity plans, all farms are encouraged to have Continuity of Business plans to keep operations running smoothly in case of disruption, such as illness or incapacitation of farm owner or team member, natural disaster, disease outbreaks or supply chain disruptions. While such plans are critical for all operations, small farms are at greater risk of catastrophic failure because the owner may be the sole caretaker.

Continuity of Business plans should include:

  • General farm ID including fields and acres, key suppliers, key markets for product, and next of kin;
  • Crop-based specifics, including crop rotation schedule, soil tests/records, pest management programs, key workers, and equipment; and
  • Animal-based specifics including state and federal premise ID number, barn layouts, field grazing capacity, animal inventory, breeding records, feeding and nutrition records, standard operating procedures for animal care, veterinary treatment records and a biosecurity plan that is reviewed and updated at least once annually.

Producers with questions about biosecurity planning are encouraged to contact Pennsylvania’s Center for Poultry and Livestock Excellence, a result of Governor Tom Wolf’s 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Bill, for resources.

For more information about the PA Farm Bill and investments to support Pennsylvania’s leading industry, visit or follow the department on Facebook or Twitter. For information as it relates to agriculture during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania visit

Pennsylvania Governor’s Administration Announces State Investment for Clean Water in Lancaster County

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Administration today announced grant funding totaling more than $500,000 for rivers conservation, recreation, and streamside forest buffers in Lancaster County.

The grants are $222,000 to Denver Borough for walkways, stream restoration, streambank stabilization and buffers along 800 feet of Cocalico Creek in the Denver Park Annex and $286,900 to the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay for planting about 34 acres of streamside forest buffers in the county.

“By slowing down runoff after it rains, and filtering out sediments and nutrients, streamside forest buffers are among the best practices to help us clean up our rivers and streams in Pennsylvania,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “We’re especially pleased to be able to put this money on the ground in Lancaster County, where residents have been working hard to make the county’s streams clean and clear, and where there is the largest opportunity for Pennsylvania to make progress on its clean water goals in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

The grants are among 22 awarded statewide, totaling approximately $2.85 million from Environmental Stewardship and Keystone funds and federal EPA Chesapeake Bay Grants for rivers conservation, access, and streamside forest buffers.

Projects will include stream and floodplain restoration, conservation plans, six boat docks/river access points, a fishing pier in Philadelphia, green infrastructure in local parks, and more than 93 acres of streamside forest buffers. A complete list is on the DCNR website.

Learn more about DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnership Program grants on the DCNR website.


Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, EPA Formalize Joint Support for Healthy Farms, Clean Water, Future Food Security at Lancaster County Farm

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Northeast Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio signed a five-year Letter of Understanding formalizing the agencies’ joint commitment to supporting measures to sustain healthy farms, clean water and food security for the region’s future. Officials signed the agreement at Worth the Wait Farms in Stevens, Lancaster County with agriculture leaders from across the Mid-Atlantic.

“These past few months have made it crystal clear to all of us that having food on our tables depends on having farms that are functioning at the top of their game and ready for whatever nature throws at them,” Redding said. “What happens on farms in Lancaster County has a tremendous impact on the daily lives of four million people in our region. The Landis family models soil and water conservation practices that ensure clean water, and a healthy farm that will keep producing food now and in the future.”

The agreement expands activities to prioritize funding, coordinate regulatory programs, recognize farmers for environmental stewardship and enhance opportunities for a dialogue with the agricultural community.

“This agreement builds on the actions our agencies are taking together and with the broader agricultural community to promote a vibrant farm economy and clean rivers and streams,” said Servidio. “This letter formalizes our work together in the pursuit of solutions that are good for both agriculture and the environment.”

The agreement reiterates Pennsylvania’s commitment to continued efforts, including the PA Farm Bill, a historic $23 million investment in growing and sustaining the commonwealth’s agriculture industry, which was modeled after Governor Wolf’s six-point plan to cultivate future generations of Pennsylvania agriculture. The bill supports business development and succession planning, creates accommodations for a growing animal agriculture sector, removes regulatory burdens, strengthens the ag workforce, protects infrastructure, and works toward making Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state.

The Farm Bill created the $2.5 million Conservation Excellence Grant program, which funds on-farm measures that reduce erosion and run-off, improving soil and water quality to ultimately sustain agriculture and improve the region’s quality of life. Examples include fencing to keep livestock out of streams, streambank restoration, cover crops, planted streamside buffers to filter nutrients out of streams, manure storage, and comprehensive plans to manage nutrients, control erosion and conserve soil and water.

The Landis family’s farm was chosen for today’s announcement in celebration of conservation measures they have taken on their seventh-generation dairy farm. During the event, American Dairy Association Northeast CEO Rick Naczi recognized the Landis family for their environmental stewardship with the organization’s Dairying for Tomorrow Award.

“Throughout 2020, and despite its many challenges, our dairy farmers continue to produce high-quality milk, while remaining committed to the care of their animals, their land, and being a good neighbor to their local communities,” said Rick Naczi, ADA North East CEO. “The Dairying for Tomorrow Awards were designed to help recognize these efforts.”

The five-year Letter of Understanding outlines the two agencies’ commitment to coordinate and leverage federal, state and private funding to support agricultural conservation practices and innovative approaches to advancing sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.

Learn more about Pennsylvania’s support of conservation through the PA Farm Bill and other investments in a vibrant, sustainable future for Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry at

Note: Photos and video from the signing event are available at

CDC’s COVD-19 Data Tracker Now Includes Rural Trends!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Tracker is a tool for sharing maps, charts, and data about COVID-19. COVID-19 Tracker now reports trends in COVID-19 incidence and mortality rates by 2013 National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Urban-Rural Classification Scheme for Counties. This scheme classifies all counties in the U.S. into one of six metropolitan categories (4 metropolitan, 1 micropolitan, 1 non-core). Users can focus on one or more of the urban-rural classes and compare them to the national-level rate. Users can also examine the urban-rural trends in incidence and mortality at the national-, state- or Health and Human Services region-level.

The CDC COVID-19 Tracker shows that the national level rates peaked in April, declined and plateaued for several weeks in May and June, and then began to rise again in late June. However, COVID-19 incidence rates among rural, micropolitan, and small metropolitan populations steadily increased since the beginning of the pandemic and surpassed the metropolitan rates in early August and now continues to rise at a faster pace.  Likewise, mortality rates in the more rural parts of the United States began low until mid-August when rates in the more rural areas began to surpass the rates in the more urban areas.

Access the Tracker at

Appalachia Nonprofits Invited to Apply for Free Technical Assistance by October 9

The ARC recently opened the Appalachia Nonprofit Resource Center, a virtual training hub to help the Region’s nonprofit organizations successfully navigate the COVID-19 crisis. As part of the Center’s programming, teams from Regional nonprofits are invited to apply for dedicated technical assistance coaching focusing on long-term operational sustainability during the current pandemic. Topics include short-term financial management, long-term financial management, mission and operations, and fundraising. Each module will be offered in two rounds, one beginning in November 2020 and another in early 2021. Course lengths will span 5-11 weeks. Nonprofits can apply for one of 120 training slots by 5:00 pm (ET) October 9, 2020.

Read more about the Appalachia Nonprofit Resource Center.