AG ONE Newsletter June 30, 2017

HOUSE CONCURS WITH SENATE TO PASS AMENDED HOUSE BILL 218

Following is a comparison between what Governor Wolf originally proposed, the original House Bill 218, and today’s State Budget House Bill 218.  If you are a policy wonk, it is quite the read.  Note:  The PA Department of Agriculture budget begins on Page 228 and ends on Page 234.

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2017&sInd=0&body=H&type=B&bn=0218

PA Department of Agriculture

Budget Item                                       Governor                   HB 218            House Bill 218 

General Government Operations       31.612 million            29,557 million             31.110 million

Centers for Excellence                        0                                 1.029 million              1.331 million

Food Market Coupons                         2.079 million              2.079 million               2.079 million

Ag Research                                        0                                 0                            1,687 million

Ag Promotion, Education, Exports      0                                 0                                  303,000

Hardwoods Research & Promotion    0                                 328,000                          428,000

Livestock Show                                    0                                 0                              215,000

Open Dairy Show                                0                                 0                               215,000

Youth Shows                                        154,000                      131,000                    169,000

Food Purchases                                   19.188 million             19.188 million             19.188 million
NOTE:  The 6/30/17 version includes 1.0 million for PA Agricultural Surplus Program.

Transfer Nutrient Fund                       2.714 million               2.307 million               2.714 million

Transfer Conservation Districts          869,000                       739,000                       869,000

Land Scrip (PSU Ag Research/Ext.)     51.813 million             51.813 million             52.313 million

PA Preferred                                       605,000                      514,000                    605,000

UPenn Vet School                               0                                 0                              30 million

Other components of this State Budget affecting Agriculture are:

  • Center for Rural PA (a legislative research body)  884,000
  • Food Marketing & Research  494,000
  • PDA Weights & Measures 728 million
  • State Conservation Commission (dirt and gravel roads) 0 million
  • Milk Marketing Board 840 million
  • County Fairs 0 million
  • Farm Show 0 million

(NOTE:  This does not have anything to do with Governor Wolf’s proposal to in effect take out a second mortgage of the Farm Show Complex.)

  • Animal Health Commission 350 million
  • Veterinary Laboratory System 309 million

In preparation for the final votes on the State Budget, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ staff prepared fiscal notes to examine appropriations for both the General Fund and selected special funds.

Fund                            Fiscal Year 2016-17     Fiscal Year 2017-18 beginning July 1, 2017

General Fund              31.318 billion             31.380 billion, an increase of 61.6 million

Federal Funds             26.447 million            26.602 million, an increase of $154.558 million

NOTE:  The Federal Fiscal Year begins October 1, 2017 and actions by the U.S. Congress could change this number.

Tobacco Settlement  136.779 million          118.529 million, a decrease of 55.3 million

NOTE:  Part of the Fiscal Code Budget that will be voted on by the General Assembly later may borrow ahead from anticipated revenues of the Tobacco Settlement Fund through a bond issue.

PA Racehorse             30.659 million           19.659 million, a decrease of 11 million                  

Development Restricted Account

State Racing Fund      20.511 million            24.138 million, an increase of 3.627 million

Senator Tom Killion (R-Delaware) issued this commentary shortly after the Senate sent the amended House Bill 218 back to the House for concurrence.

Today the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2017-18 state budget. House Bill 218 provides for a state budget of $32 billion which represents a 0.2% increase over the previous year and contains investments in key budget area like basic education, Pre-K education programs, and special education. The FY 2017-18 budget strikes a balance between supporting state priorities like education and healthcare while still dealing with significant fiscal challenges like meeting staggering state pension obligations. The FY 2017-18 contains a $100 million increase for basic education funding, a $25 million increase for special education funding, and restores $30 million for the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Activities which supports the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square.

AG ONE Newsletter June 21, 2017

PSCFO ADOPTS BUDGET POLICY POSITIONS

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) adopted several policy positions relating to issues facing the General Assembly, chief among these being the FY 2017-18 State Budget.  PSCFO is urging the General Assembly to restore the PA Agriculture Department’s General Government Operations (GGO) line item budget to what was originally proposed to the legislature in February ($31.612 million).  Doing so would allow the Department to continue animal, plant, food inspections at current levels versus continued erosion of PDA’s ability to handle the core function of food security.  PSCFO also urged restoration of other budget cuts in areas such as the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, conservation, the agriculture research line item in PDA’s budget, etc.

The State Council also adopted two additional policy positions to:

  • Thank the PA House for voting unanimously for House Bill 176 (Pickett-R-Bradford) which exempts roadside stands from building requirements of the Uniform Construction Code (UCC).  The Senate was urged to concur and pass the bill before the start of the summer recess.
  • Support legislation that limits liability for those engaged in agri-tourism.  The point was made at the June 12 meeting that given the situation with dairy particularly, farmers must rely on additional sources of income.  Fear of a lawsuit is a real barrier.

DOG LAW REVISIONS URGED BY PDA

On June 16, the PA Department of Agriculture asked the General Assembly to take prompt action on House Bill 1463 and Senate Bill 738.  Per the Department, the Dog Law Restricted Account is nearing depletion while demands for the Department’s work in regulating and inspecting kennels, protecting stray dogs, and responding to dog bite situations have skyrocketed.  The bills would create a single state-wide system for purchasing and renewing dog licenses rather than the currently fragmented system.  License fees would increase from $6.50 to $10.00 annually and from $31.50 to $47.00 for lifelong dog licenses.

AGRICULTURE ISSUES in the General Assembly…The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee convened a hearing June 13 on the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) which could have a devastating effect on the 1,000-plus deer farms in PA… A bill limiting liability to land owners from recreational users passed the House Tourism & Recreational Development Committee June 6 and was referred to the House Rules Committee….Also on June 6, the House passed House Bill 410 (Warner-R-Fayette/Westmoreland) to establish performance-based budgeting in PA.  Advocates say it will force agencies to justify their budget every year rather than ‘coasting’ based on previous budgets.  The vote was divided 115-79…House Bill 187 (Sonney-R-Erie) which allows wind energy easements for protected farms is on the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee agenda June 20.  It passed the House May 10 by a 192-4 vote….

CONTROLLED PLANT & NOXIOUS WEED BILL BEING CONSIDERED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Also on June 20, the Senate committee will take up House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) regarding the Controlled Plant & Noxious Weed Act.  Among other things, it establishes a system to control weeds that might have economic value such as a biofuel.  Its’ Senate counterpart is Senate Bill 567 (Argall-R-Schuylkill and Schwank-D-Berks).

ASSOCIATION NEWS

  • Wayne Campbell (PA State Grange) was appointed by the Board of Directors to fill the unexpired term of Beth Downey who resigned.
  • The PA Department of Agriculture/PSCFO- sponsored Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)/Risk Management workshop June 1 in Tamaqua had two legislators in attendance, Senate Majority Policy Committee Chair Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

HOUSE AG COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER TWO BILLS

On June 20, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is considering two bills.  House Bill 1518 (Causer-R-McKean/Cameron/Potter) adds two farmers as alternate members of the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Board.  This Board meets to see if there are prudent alternatives to taking farmland for highway purposes.  Currently, there is no provision for the farmer members of the Board to have alternates.  The second bill is House Bill 1550 (Klunk-R-York).  It allows a farmer to choose not to create an additional farmstead residence to reduce the protected farmland value for a tax write-off or make it easier to pass on the farm to the next generation at a lower value.

COMING UP…

  • PA Certified Organic is hosting the 6th annual FarmFest in Centre Hall, PA July 28-19 to celebrate “our state’s rich organic heritage.”  Details: 814-422-0251
  • FARM AID Concert is returning to Pennsylvania September 16 in Burgettstown, PA, about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh. Details: https://www.farmaid.org/concert
  • The PA Fair schedule flyer has been released.  Details: PA Department of Agriculture 717-787-6298 or PA State Association of County Fairs 866-814-6985, www.pafairs.org  Trivia question: What is the longest-running annual fair in the country? It is the Jacktown Fair in Greene County.  The oldest fair in the U.S. is of course the York Fair.