Jim McHale: Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture

A Plowboy Interview with Jim McHale, a major supporter of agriculture and rural Pennsylvania.

| January/February 1977


Jim McHale is no newcomer to agriculture. His "hands on" farming experience goes back some 40 years, to when he was a boy.


Pennsylvania is far more rural than most of us realize: of its 12 million residents, three and a half million (a larger number than in any other state) live in non-urban areas.  

Pennsylvania is also a great deal more important agriculturally than we generally suppose. It ranks seventh in the nation in tobacco production, sixth in the slaughter of hogs, fifth in the production of grapes, chickens and milk, fourth in apples, peaches and tart cherries, third in eggs, and — alone — produces more of this country's cultured mushrooms (140,500,000 pounds, or 61 percent of the annual U.S. crop) than all the other 49 states put together.  

Altogether, the Keystone State produces over $1 billion worth of farm products annually. Or, to put it another way, Pennsylvania is not just your casual agricultural state.  

And Jim McHale, Secretary of Agriculture for the state of Pennsylvania from January of 1971 to December of 1975, was most certainly not your casual modern secretary of agriculture.  

For one thing, he didn't enter office straight from an exalted executive position in some huge agribiz corporation. Nor had he spent 15 or 20 years teaching in one of the country's agricultural colleges. (What the heck! Jim McHale didn't even make it to college as a student, much less a professor.)  

And for another, McHale took office determined to make the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture responsive to the real needs of all the farmers and all the other three and a half million rural residents of the Keystone State. Maybe even the real needs of the eight and a half million urban citizens of Pennsylvania, too, if that's what was necessary. But, at any rate, responsive to the real flesh-and-blood needs of real people...and not the dollar and power demands of the corporate agribiz establishment.  

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