Scott Sechler, owner of premium poultry producer Bell & Evans, along with representatives from several other Pennsylvania public and non-governmental organizations, on Jan. 14 signed the High Performance Farms Initiative (HPFI) at the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show. The Initiative acts to promote innovative, sustainable and organic farming practices that protect and improve soil and water quality health within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Additional signees of the HPFI include the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission (SCC), Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO), Rodale Institute, and the Pennsylvania Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The idea of organic agriculture was first introduced in Pennsylvania by Rodale Institute, one of the participants in the HPFI, and Pennsylvania is the second largest contributor to organic food production in the United States. The progress made through the HPFI will set a leading example for other states to follow.

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“We’re excited to be the private sector leader in Pennsylvania’s organic movement, working with these great state and Federal partners,” said Sechler. “Bell & Evans has always contracted with farmers who choose to practice higher standards,” said Sechler. “But transitioning to organic isn’t easy and costs money, so we have to provide economic security and other support during that transitional period to help them along.”

Within the HPFI, em>Bell & Evans commits to supporting grain and poultry growers that adopt organic and sustainable best practices as recommended through the Initiative by establishing long-term contracts and premium pricing during the transitions. Additionally, Bell & Evans intends to improve its agricultural waste recycling program, participate in data collection and assessments, and promote workforce development through education and training.