High Tunnels: House Bill 1440 (Boback-R-Luzerne) enacted by the General Assembly. This states that these agricultural buildings are not governed by the Uniform Construction Code. PSCFO and a number of PSCFO Council member organizations such as PA Landscape & Nursery Association and the PA Farm Bureau lobbied for HB 1440’s passage. Status: Sent to Governor Corbett October 14.
Vehicle Code Change: Also sent to the Governor October 14 was House Bill 2092 (M. Keller-R-Perry) amends the PA vehicle code to make PA requirements match those of federal rules regarding “covered farm vehicles” where drivers do not need a commercial driver’s license to operate “covered farm vehicles” anywhere within the state or operated interstate within 150 miles from the farm. The Fiscal Note clarifies that the legislation’s 150 miles are “air miles”, meaning that the actual range is 172.6 miles.
HARRISBURG – House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) gives developers the ability to ignore a 150 foot forested (riparian) barrier requirement between development and certain waterways under the PA Clean Streams Law. Voting was not along party lines. The September 22 House vote of 119-79 saw 22 Republicans voting against and 31 Democrats voting for HB 1565. The Senate vote on October 14 was 27-22 with eight Republicans voting no and eight Democrats voting yes.
According to her sponsorship memo, Rep. Hahn said that the goal was “to clarify that riparian buffer and riparian forest buffers shall not be required but may be used as a best choice among best management practices or design standards to minimize pollution from erosion and sedimentation.” She said that current law “amounts to a taking of property without legislative oversight or approval”.
Supported by builders and business interests, this legislation was strongly opposed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, PA Landscape & Nursery Association, PA Environmental Council, PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, former DEP Secretary David Hess and others.
With the de facto end of this session of the General Assembly, there has been a flurry of legislative activity on a number of bills with an impact on PA Agriculture.
• House Bill 1550 (Milne-R-Chester) establishes the PA Business Development Authority as an attempt to consolidate several state loan programs into one entity. The PA Industrial Development Program as part of this consolidation specifies that loans made to an industrial project may not “cause the removal of an industrial enterprise, manufacturing enterprise, research & development enterprise, AGRICULTURE PRODUCER or AGRICULTURAL PROCESSOR from one area of this Commonwealth to another area of this Commonwealth.” Status: Presented to the Governor October 15.
• House Bill 1996 (Lawrence-R-Chester) seeks to clarify the amount and percentage of the total paid to dairy farmers that comes from “over order premiums”, the Milk Marketing Board fee that is supposed to be returned to the farmer to help offset production costs. Status: Passed House 153-42 on October 14 and referred to the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee October 15.
• Senate Bill 76 (Argall-R-Schuylkill), the property tax reform bill to eliminate school property taxes and replace them with an increase in Personal Income Tax and elimination of numerous exemptions of the sales tax, was tabled by the Senate October 16, ending its legislative journey for this legislative session.
• Senate Bill 491 (Folmer-R-Lebanon) states that if an individual’s declaration of estimated tax shows 2/3 of total income for the year comes from farming, the estimated tax may be paid at any time of the year on or before January 15 of the succeeding year. Although originally non-controversial, the bill died when the House Finance Committee September 22 amended SB 491 to allow for taxation options in lieu of the traditional school district property tax.
SHREWSBURY – Farm Show Executive Director and long-time agriculture advocate Michael Waugh passed away at the age of 58. He also had a distinguished record of service as a York County State Senator where he held a leadership position as well as being a former Chair of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/Army Corps of Engineers proposed definition of “Waters of the US” or WOTUS has a new deadline for public comment, November 14. The PA Department of Agriculture suggested that the proposed rule be withdrawn.
PSCFO did not comment due to the diversity of views within the organization.
There will be an informational panel on the subject at the October 27 Council meeting to contrast some of the positions. Those seeking to comment should utilize
Delaware Valley College submitted an application to the PA Department of Education to change its status to Delaware Valley University with an effective date of December 1, 2014. NOTE: This is a corrected effective date as the original posting in the September 27 PA Bulletin said incorrectly that the change would take effect in 2015.