Wolf Administration Tours Maple Camp, Discusses How Restore Pennsylvania Will Help Rural Farms

Somerset, PA – Today, Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives Executive Director Sheri Collins and Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary for Market Development Cheryl Cook visited Baer Brothers Maple Camp in Somerset County to hear how broadband limitations are affecting Pennsylvania farmers and how Restore Pennsylvania could help. Many farmers throughout the commonwealth rely on internet access for product collection techniques, monitoring systems, and processing credit card transactions.

“Baer Brothers’ expansive maple sap collection system is truly a rural operation and exemplifies the needs and struggles of many Pennsylvania farmers due to limited internet access,” said Executive Director Collins. “Farmers are often responsible for hundreds of miles of property and product, and they should be able to oversee management through technology.”

Baer Brothers owner Mike Lynch walked Executive Director Collins and Deputy Secretary Cook through his property and showed the tubing system, weaved throughout thousands of trees, used to collect maple sap. The tubing creates a pipeline that assists in moving raw sap from each tree to a collection point, and can be monitored electronically to detect leaks and measure tank levels. Reliable broadband access is needed to best monitor these systems and avoid issues.

“Having monitoring systems offers a peace of mind and saves on labor, but without reliable internet you cannot count on receiving alerts or warnings that you may need to be aware of in a timely manner,” said Lynch.

Baer Brothers utilizes over 4,000 maple trees each year in early spring to create syrup and other maple products that are sold locally and across the country. The Lynch family also participates in the annual Somerset County Maple Weekend each March, a successful tourism venture where customers come to buy local products and support their farmers. Due to limited internet access, processing credit card transactions for consumers during this weekend can be a complicated process.

“A lack of broadband access is one of the largest competitive disadvantages to our rural communities,” said Deputy Secretary Cook. “How can we expect innovators and entrepreneurs in rural Pennsylvania agriculture to compete when they cannot access and share data as quickly as their counterparts in more developed areas?”

Restore Pennsylvania, the $4.5 billion bipartisan proposal funded through a commonsense severance tax, will provide funding to completely bridge the digital divide in every community in Pennsylvania. Funding will be available to support installation of infrastructure to bring high speed internet to every corner of the commonwealth.

Nearly a million Pennsylvanians today lack access to robust, reliable, high-speed internet. According to a report published earlier this year from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, internet connectivity speeds are substantially slower in rural counties than in urban ones. Due to the cost of broadband infrastructure, local municipalities cannot fund the purchase and installation of that infrastructure themselves. If passed into law, Restore Pennsylvania will support every phase of the process from feasibility testing to connection at a level far beyond any existing funding mechanisms.

Restore Pennsylvania is a statewide plan to aggressively address the commonwealth’s vital infrastructure needs. Funded through a commonsense severance tax, Restore Pennsylvania is the only plan that will help make Pennsylvania a leader in the 21st century.

Learn more about what critical infrastructure could be addressed in your community by visiting the Restore Pennsylvania website.

For more information about the Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED), visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Casey Smith, DCED, 717.783.1132

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