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Agricultural Business Development Center Supports Pennsylvania Farmers | Main Edition

Rooted in Pennsylvania folklore, Groundhog Day has evolved into a national tradition, celebrating seasons of change.

This month’s event marked 135 years of Punxsutawney Phil’s role as a prognosticator, and this year he called for six more weeks of winter.

While Phil’s weather predicting skills have become a game of chance, Groundhog Day was founded less on mere coincidence and more on planning for the seasons to come.

Feb. 2 is a cross-quarter day, meaning it is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. With or without a shadow, it is time to plan for the seasons ahead.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers a variety of on-farm planning and business resources to strengthen operations.

We know that work never truly stops on the farm, but during these last few weeks of winter, I encourage you to take time to pause and plan for the year ahead.

Founded under the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the Agricultural Business Development Center is focused on being a resource for Pennsylvania farmers.

This can take many forms, including business planning, generational farm transfers and transitions of farm ownership, strategic farm expansion, agricultural production diversification and building a team of financial and technical expertise.

The Farm Vitality Planning Grant Program offered through the ABDC can assist with all of these, offering up to $7,500 or 75% of planning cost.

For Trevor Gill, a fourth-generation farmer in Cumberland County, the grant came at a critical time, as he needed support to transition the farm after losing a loved one.

Working with AgChoice Farm Credit, Trevor received a $7,200 Farm Vitality Grant for succession and business planning services to transition the family farm from his grandparents.

Trevor is not alone. Since the Farm Vitality Grant began, 207 farms across the commonwealth have received support.

Frequently, the department is approached about support for new and beginning farmers as they work with current farmers to either lease or purchase a farm.

The beginning farmer tax credit is a program that allows the seller or lessor of agricultural land, equipment, buildings and livestock to a qualified beginning farmer to apply for and receive tax credits against the seller or lessor’s Pennsylvania income tax obligations in the year of the sale or lease.

For more information about these programs and other planning tools, contact the Agricultural Business Development Center at 717-783-8462, or visit

Planning for the year ahead also means planning for the unexpected. Tools like the Dairy Margin Coverage program and crop insurance are assurances for short-term and long-term dividends by guaranteeing a pay day.

Insurance is a risk management tool that reduces uncertainty by lessening loss and better positioning farms for long-term financial stability. It looks different for each operation, but it is a necessary step for on-farm business planning.

For dairy producers, Dairy Margin Coverage enrollment has been extended to March 25. More information is available at your local USDA Farm Service Agency office. Crop insurance enrollment is available through March 15. Find an agent near you by visiting

Whether you’re planning for the year ahead or for the generations to come, there are tools to help. The Department of Agriculture is a resource and is committed to helping farmers and producers achieve their goals, strengthening on-farm resiliency and the agricultural economy for years to come.