HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET ADVANCES TO SENATE
By a 114-84 vote April 4, the PA House voted to send the Republican-crafted State Budget Bill to the PA Senate. There were four Republicans voting no on House Bill 218: Representatives DiGirolamo (Bucks), McGinnis (Blair), Harper (Montgomery), and Hennessey (Chester). No Democrats voted for HB 218. Following is a comparison between the present fiscal year, what Governor Wolf originally proposed in February, and what House Bill 218 seeks to do.
PA Department of Agriculture
Budget Line Item FY 2016-17 Governor House Bill 218
General Government Operations 29.379 million 31.612 million 29,557 million
Centers for Excellence 1.21 million 0 1.029 million
Food Market Coupons 2.079 million 2.079 million 2.079 million
Ag Research 1.687 million 0 0
Ag Promotion, Education, Exports 250,000 0 0
Hardwoods Research & Promotion 385,000 0 328,000
Livestock Show 195,000 0 0
Open Dairy Show 195,000 0 0
Youth Shows 154.000 154,000 131,000
Food Purchases 19.188 million 19.188 million 19.188 million
Transfer Nutrient Fund 2.714 million 2.714 million 2.307 million
Transfer Conservation Districts 869,000 869,000 739,000
Land Scrip (PSU Ag Research/Ext.) 51.813 million 51.813 million 51.813 million
PA Preferred 605,000 605,000 514,000
UPenn Vet School 30.135 million 0 0
Department of Environmental Protection budget in HB 218 includes $2.13 million transferred to the Conservation District Fund and $2.423 million for Chesapeake Bay Agriculture Source Management.
- On April 17, there will be a joint hearing of three House committees (Human Services, Aging & Older Adult Services, and Health) on Governor Wolf’s proposed consolidation of four separate Cabinet departments into one Department of Health & Human Services. There has already been strong backlash from Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) who led a well-attended rally April 5 of supporters of the PA Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs. Dept. of Aging advocates have also weighed in, fearing a dilution of the Commonwealth’s commitment to seniors if the Aging Dept. is absorbed.
- On May 3, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, on issues related to the forest products industry.
- On May 10 in Harrisburg, the same committee will hear from PDA Secretary Russell Redding on budget and other priorities of the PA Department of Agriculture.
APPLE MARKETING ORDER
On April 4, the Agriculture Department issued a release stating that PA apple growers may vote on the “Pennsylvania Apple Program”. This replaces the terminated PA Apple Marketing Program. Eligible growers are those with 500-plus apple trees. The proposed program has a grower assessment of five cents per bushel with an estimated $200,000 – $250,000 in revenue which would be used to fund U.S. Apple Association membership, apple research, consumer education, and program administration. PDA must receive ballots by April 21. Details: www.pennsylvaniaapples.org/about/board-staff
- Sunday Falconry Hunting (Senate Bill 123 (Scavello-R-Monroe) passed the Senate 47-0.
- Structures used in maple sugar operations would be exempted from building requirements of the Universal Construction Code (UCC) per House Bill 177 which passed the House 196-0.
USDA NASS SEEKS AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION HELP
The National Agricultural Statistics Service issued a plea for agricultural groups to actively partner with NASS in urging farmers to participate in the 2017 Census of Agriculture, a survey that will be forthcoming in December of this year. Even though the request comes early, Regional Director King Whetstone says that support in promoting the Census is critical to its success. He notes that the Census is taken every five years and provides a basis for various Federal program resources and activities to be apportioned. It also provides base yield data to help farmers receive an accurate Crop Insurance payment should a claim be filed. Details: 717-787-3904, www.agcensus.usda.gov
NASS ISSUES PLANTING FORECASTS
On April 3, NASS issued prospective planting numbers for Pennsylvania. It projects a three-percent increase in soybeans from last year, 18% increase for barley, five-percent increase for winter wheat, seven-percent increase for hay, and no change in planted acres for oats. Decreased acreage is forecast for corn (down two percent) and tobacco (down one percent).
Phila. Democrat Emilio Vazguez won a special election in the 197th district.