FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in Kutztown DECEMBER 14

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact:  Vince Phillips 717-232-9665

FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in Kutztown DECEMBER 14

On Thursday, December 14, the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO), along with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, will be holding a community service seminar hosted by the Kutztown Grange.

The purpose of this seminar is to provide farmers and agriculture producers with information about their compliance requirements as laid out in the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  During the seminar, a discussion regarding risk management will also take place.  Topics that will be covered regarding risk management include: food safety, crop insurance and key questions farmers should ask insurance agents in order to make sure their specific needs are met.

The event is free of charge and will take place at the Kutztown Grange Hall located at Kemp and James Streets in Kutztown from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  A light lunch will be provided in the afternoon.

The workshop is being held with the acknowledgement and support of the Berks County State Senators and State Representatives

For more information about the event, please contact Vince Phillips at the PSCFO at 717-232-9665 or xenobun@aol.com  or former State Representative Lynn Herman at 814-880-2272 (cell) or lherman77@comcast.net.

 

AG ONE Newsletter November 19, 2017

BUDGET FOLLOW UP

Despite enactment of the State Budget, there are still some loose ends.

  • Up in the air is Governor Wolf’s plan to take out what amounts to an equity loan on the state-owned Harrisburg Farm Show Complex.  His goal was to have the state receive a $200 million loan which would have to be repaid to the lender over 30 years.  There is speculation over the legality of such a move.  The bidding period closed November 13.
  • The medical malpractice insurer of last resort, the PA Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), sued the Commonwealth for what it says is illegally taking $200 million out of the insurer’s reserves to help balance the State Budget. (Act 44).
  • Governor Wolf has dropped his plan to borrow against future profits from the PA Liquor Control Board after the PA Commonwealth Financing Authority approved plans to borrow $1.5 billion from future Tobacco Settlement monies coming into the state. (Act 43 of 2017)
  • Unknown as of November 19 is from which dedicated funds Governor Wolf will take $300 million.  Thanks to authority given to him by the General Assembly in order to pass State Budget revenue bills, Governor Wolf can choose from as few or as many he wants.  Of concern to the agricultural industry are special funds such as the Conservation District Fund and others dedicated to agricultural and conservation efforts.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION RATE HIKE POSTPONED

A 6.06% increase in Workers’ Compensation premiums that would have taken effect November 1 has been delayed as reported by the Central Penn Business Journal due to a challenge from the PA Association for Justice (trial lawyers). Details were not released by the Insurance Department but the following was given in response to a query from Phillips Associates:  While the PCRB proposed a November 1, 2017 effective date in the filing, the Department can use up to 180 days to review the filing in accordance with Article VII of the Workers Compensation Act.  While we don’t anticipate needing the full 180 days contemplated by the law, we have not yet completed our review… If the filing is ultimately approved…there would be an amended effective date as we are now past the November 1, 2017 effective date proposed by the PCRB and cannot approve rates retroactively.

POLITICS

  • Former PA Secretary of Agriculture Denny Wolff is running for the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Barletta who is seeking the nomination to oppose Senator Casey in 2018.
  • PA Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Washington/Allegheny) was chosen as the GOP candidate in the special election to succeed resigned U.S. Representative Tim Murphy.  He defeated two PA Senators, Kim Ward and Guy Reschenthaler to win the Republican nomination.  The special election will take place March 13.  The winner would serve out the remainder of Murphy’s term, meaning that the winner faces a re-election contest in November 2018.
  • House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced his candidacy for the Republican nominee for Governor on November 14.  His announcement brings to four the Republicans vying for the nomination: Senator Scott Wagner (R-York), Allegheny County health consultant Paul Mango and Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth. 
  • January 25 is the date of the special election to replace Rep. Marc Gergely (D-Allegheny).  This district is traditionally Democratic.  Rep. Gergely was forced to step down after pleading guilty to violating gambling laws.
  • State Representative Justin Simmons (R-Northampton/Lehigh/Montgomery) has withdrawn from the contest for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Representative Charles Dent.

BILLS SIGNED BY GOVERNOR

Signed by the Governor October 30 was House Bill 790 (controlled and noxious weeds) which is now Act 46 of 2017. Prime sponsor is House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne). House Bill 176 (Pickett-R-Bradford) is now Act 35 after being signed by Governor Wolf October 25.  It exempts roadside marketing stands and some animal feeding operations from Uniform Construction Code (UCC) building requirements.

QUICK LOOK AT LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • Senate Bill 740 (Aument-R-Lancaster) continues Universal Service Fund (land-lines for rural areas).  Status: Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
  • Senate Bills 819 and 820 (Aument) agritourism liability are in Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee and Senate Judiciary Committees respectively.
  • House Bill 544 (Moul-R-Adams) is in the House Appropriations Committee.
  • House Bill 577 (Everett-R-Lycoming) Marcellus natural gas royalty 12.5% guarantee to leaseholders is in the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.  There is also a discharge resolution to have the full House take up the matter, bypassing the committee.
  • House Bill 944 (M. Keller-R-Perry) Commission for Agriculture Education is in the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

GRANTS

  • Up to $1,600.00 from KidsGardening can go to nonprofit, school, or youth programs that plan a new garden or expand an existing one.  Deadline for applications is December 8, 2017.  info@kidsgardening.org ; 802-660-4604
  • Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant applications are due December 5, 2017.  Awards are capped at $15,000 and applicants must work with a technical advisor such as an Extension educator or private crop consultant.  Details: http://www.northeastsare.org

AG ONE Newsletter October 30, 2017

BUDGET SAGA (FINALLY) ENDS

Update:

Please note the following updates to the AG ONE Newsletter below posted earlier today. These were signed into law today by Governor Tom Wolf:


HB 790
sponsored by House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) (controlled and noxious weeds) is Act 46

HB 542
Tax Code (taxes on fireworks, $1.5 billion loan from Tobacco Settlement, etc.) is now Act 43.

HB 785 Capital Facilities Debt Act (state indebtedness levels) is now Act 45.

HB 674 Fiscal Code (takes $200 million from an insurance company reserves; gives Governor discretion as to where $300 million will come from dedicated funds) is now Act 44

HB 118
(Labor & Industry inspection fees) is now Act 40.

SB 651
Capital Budget (authorization wish list for wide variety of state bricks and mortar projects) is now Act 52.

HB 271 (expands gambling in hopes of generating $200 million more revenue to the state) is now Act 42.

*****

With House action October 25 and 26, the revenue side to the State Budget was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.  He has ten days to approve, veto, or let the legislation go into effect without his signature.  Some major elements include:

  • Borrowing of $1.5 billion from future payments to Pennsylvania from the Tobacco Master Settlement to be paid back within 30 years  NOTE:  House Bill 542, page 271 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0542&pn=2598
  • Taking $200 million from reserves held by the Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), the medical malpractice insurer of last resort.  The Administrative Code bill specifies that if JUA does not hand over the money by December 1st, it will be abolished.  JUA says that it is illegal for the state to “seize” insurance company reserves and that it will sue to prevent this from occurring.  NOTE: House Bill 674, Article II-D, section 201-D  page 14: Similar language is found in House Bill 118 but this specifies that the Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear any challenge. http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0674&pn=2624
  • $200 million to come from gambling expansion (House Bill 271)
  • Senate Bill 651, the Capitol Budget, is a bricks and mortar wish list for projects funded by the Commonwealth.  Just because projects are listed here does not mean that the money is actually there. This is an authorization bill.  Examples for Capital Budget items might be a new barn for the Farm Show complex or significant upgrading to a state building HVAC system.
  • New Labor & Industry inspection fees schedule (boilers, elevators, ski lifts, etc. are found in Administrative Code bill, House Bill 118 starting on page 12.  www.legis.state.pa.us
  • New taxes on fireworks: 12% for consumers buying fireworks; annual fees ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 for permanent structures selling fireworks; and $3,000 per year for temporary structures.  One miscellaneous insurance provision is a $50,000 bond requirement for municipal fireworks displays.  (HB 542 page 257 dealing with new taxes on fireworks)

FARM SHOW LOAN IN LIMBO

In limbo is the Governor’s unilateral decision October 4 to borrow ahead (“securitize”) future profits from the PA Liquor Control Board and his October 9 pronouncement that PA would take out an equity loan on the Farm Show Complex owned by the state.  His rationale was that he would take budget matters into his own hands, absent a legislative resolution to the State Budget impasse. PSCFO has requested a meeting with Governor Wolf to discuss the Farm Show Complex loan issue.

AND…THERE IS A SLEEPER BUDGET ISSUE.

House Bill 674 contains this section:  SECTION 1726-G.FUND TRANSFERS.

DURING THE 2017-2018 FISCAL YEAR, $300,000,000 SHALL BE

TRANSFERRED FROM AMOUNTS AVAILABLE IN SPECIAL FUNDS AND

RESTRICTED ACCOUNTS TO THE GENERAL FUND.

This is the ultimate outcome of those seeking to balance the State Budget by taking monies from over 50 specified dedicated funds.  The Senate derailed that notion but this final language gives the Governor the discretionary authority to decide from which funds this $300 million shall come.  HB 674 does not contain language limiting his choices so they might or might not be  agriculture or environmental funds. PSCFO sent a heads up memo to Council members about this section.

SENATE BANKING & INSURANCE COMMITTEE HOLDS RX PRICE HEARING

On October 23, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee convened a prescription drug price transparency hearing relative to Senate Bill 637 (White-R-Indiana).  It presented starkly contrasting views between the pharmaceutical industry which maintained that manufacturing costs increases are quite reasonable versus insurers and prescription benefit managers (PBMs) which pointed accusing fingers at the drug industry for unwarranted price increases.  Testimony also came from the PA State Grange which said that price transparency could give insurance companies the ability to negotiate more effectively because they could compare pricing practices between states, such as a hypothetical Epi-pen charge of $150 in one state versus $600 in PA.

WEED BILL GOES TO GOVERNOR (No, not that weed…)

Presented to the Governor October 25 was House Bill 790 regarding controlled and noxious weeds.  Prime sponsor is House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne).

EXPECT WORKERS’ COMPENSATION HIKES

The PA Compensation Rating Bureau (PCRB) revised loss cost filing goes into effect November 1st. This translates into a general increase in Workers’ Compensation premiums of 6.06%, necessary to adapt to the Supreme Court striking down a major provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act regarding permanent  impairment evaluation standards.

YOUTH GARDENING GRANTS up to $500 will be awarded by Katie’s Krops.  Eligible are youths aged 9-16.  Harvests must be donated to food banks.  Application deadline is December 31.  Details:  http://www.katieskrops.com/start-a-garden.html House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) passed the Senate 49-0 on October 18 and was referred to the House Rules Committee.  The House now must consider amendments made to the bill in the Senate.

AG ONE Newsletter October 19, 2017

On Tuesday October 17, the PA House of Representatives passed House Bill 542, the latest incarnation of a revenue plan to match the State Budget spending plan passed last summer.  The vote was 102 – 88 with significant crossovers.  46 Republican Representatives voted no to Republican leadership-endorsed HB 542 while 32 Democrats including Democratic leadership voted to support the bill.

Now, of course, it is up to the Senate to concur.  Previously, the Senate voted for Marcellus Shale taxes which the House did not accept.  The House countered with a revenue bill that went after special dedicated funds such as a fund used to cover Insurance Department general government operations, monies dedicated to conservation, districts, etc.  The Senate disagreed so this House vote on HB 542 was its response to the Senate rejection. The Senate is expected to vote next week.  If the Senate agrees, HB 542 will go to Governor Wolf.

Following are a number of provisions in HB 542 that might be of interest.

  • Borrowing from future revenues from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement is expected to generate $1.5 billion.  It will be repaid over the next 30 years.

Background: The Tobacco Settlement was the result of lawsuits against tobacco companies which resulted in a settlement where tobacco companies would not have to fight off many individual lawsuits but would instead pay states certain amounts each year.  Pennsylvania uses that money to fund medical research, smoking cessation, uncompensated care from hospitals, specialized state health programs, etc. 

  • Expansions of the Sales Tax
  • “Remote sellers” = $10 million in this fiscal year and $50 million thereafter
  • Exemption from the Sales Tax: Beer kegs
  • Personal Income Tax (PIT) Expansion = $20 million
  • Those making rent or royalty payments to out of state entities exceeding $5,000 must withhold the PIT.
  • Out of state independent contractors coming into PA for work receiving over $5,000 will see PIT withheld from their compensation.
  • Personal Income Tax
  • Deductions for contributions to ABLE (disabled account similar to IRA) allowed
  • Makes permanent check-offs for Wildlife Resource Confirmation Fund, Organ Donation Awareness Fund, American Red Cross, Military & Family Relief Assistance Fund, Children’s Trust Fund
  • New Taxes
  • Carsharing Fee depending on distance from 25 cents to $2.00. Monies go into a dedicated account, the Public Transportation Assistance Fund.  Carsharing is defined as membership providing an alternative to a privately-owned vehicle where the rental is not trip-specific written agreement, no attendant is present when the car is used, and with access to shared vehicles 24 hours a day, fees can be based on time or distance.
  • Fireworks: 12% tax on consumer fireworks
  • Annual license fees paid by fireworks sellers for permanent structures facilities range from $7,500 to $20,000 depending on square footage.
  • Annual license fees for temporary (seasonal) fireworks facilities are $3,000.
  • Miscellaneous:  Anticipated revenue is $20 million/year.
  • Taxpayer period to file petition for reassessment shrinks from 90 to 60 days.
  • Period where a taxpayer appeals a Board of Appeals tax decision to the Board of Finance Revenue decreases from 90 to 60 days.

Those interested in how Representatives voted may go to

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/RC/Public/rc_view_action2.cfm?sess_yr=2017&sess_ind=0&rc_body=H&rc_nbr=768

OTHER LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • No funding yet for Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.  A joint hearing will be held by the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs, Senate Education, and Senate Appropriations Committees October 25 on funding for Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
  • The House adopted House Resolution 515 (Fritz-R-Susquehanna) on October 17 putting the House on record as opposing a September 13 decision by the Delaware River Basin Commission to move a Rule forward to ban fracking in most of northeast PA.  The Commission vote was 3-1 with one abstention.  PA Governor Wolf voted with the Governors of New York and Delaware for the anti-fracking Rule.  The House vote does not legally prevent the Delaware River Basin Commission from moving ahead with the Rule review process.
  • House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) passed the Senate 49-0 on October 18 and was referred to the House Rules Committee.  The House now must consider amendments made to the bill in the Senate.

AG ONE Newsletter September 26, 2017

SENATE SAYS NO: BUDGET STILL UNRESOLVED

On Wednesday, September 20, the PA Senate rejected a House-passed revenue bill (House Bill 453) by a vote of 43-7, thus paving the way for a Conference Committee where three House members and three Senators thrash out differences.  At issue is the Senate approach which included new taxes and the House version which had no new taxes but instead tapped about 50 dedicated funds to balance the State Budget.

Backdrop on the Senate Vote

Technically, the Senate vote was on a motion to non-concur with House amendments to House Bill 453.  The vote showed that the more conservative wing of the Republican Party has less influence in the more moderate Senate than it does in the House where conservatives were able to convince all but 15 Republicans to go for the no-tax option.  The seven Senators voting for the House approach were John DiSanto (Perry/Dauphin), John Eichelberger (Blair), Scott Hutchinson (Venango), Mike Regan (Cumberland), Pat Stefano (Westmoreland/Somerset/Fayette), Scott Martin (Lancaster), and Scott Wagner (York).  Stalwart Senate conservatives Michelle Brooks (Erie/Warren/Crawford/Mercer) and Mike Folmer (Lebanon/Dauphin) voted with the majority in opposing the House version.

What Happens Next

The PA House will be in session this week and things could begin to take shape.  Assuming that there is to be a Conference Committee, there may be jockeying for who represents the House in negotiations – will it be leadership or will it include a House member who is ideologically committed to no new taxes?  The Senate’s return is not scheduled until October 16 but they would come back sooner if there is something on which to vote.  An obvious point of disagreement is taking money from dedicated funds.  Should funds established for specific purposes be off-limits or should they be considered savings accounts which could be used in case of a fiscal crisis?

Dedicated Funds May Still Be In Play

With Senate rejection of the House amendments, a quick look would suggest that dedicated funds are safe, but ultimately, the final budget bill may include some taxes (Senate version) and some dedicated funds (House version).  The point here is that the Budget impasse is far from over!

PSCFO ACTS ON BUDGET

At the September 18 State Council meeting, PSCFO directed that a letter be sent to legislators asking them not to go after agricultural funds’ reserves (such as the Conservation District Fund) since doing so would cripple programs.  The letter went out September 19.

HOUSE & SENATE COMMITTEES TO MEET ON SPOTTED LANTERNFLY

On October 18, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee and the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will hold a joint hearing on efforts to contain the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly.  This invasive species has the potential to impact PA’s grape, tree fruit, plant nursery, hops, and logging industries.  Quarantines are now in effect for parts of Chester, Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties.  On September 23, the PA Bulletin updated a list of affected townships.

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol47/47-38/1577.html

STATE COUNCIL TAKES POLICY POSITIONS

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations endorsed two pieces of legislation at its September 18 meeting.  First is House Bill 544 (Moul-R-Adams).  It provides some liability protection to property owners who allow recreational use on their land (ATVs, etc.) who have added improvements.  The second piece of legislation is Senate Bill 740 (Aument-R-Lancaster).  It requires utilities to provide landline telephone service to rural areas since there is insufficient access to cell and Internet.  SB 740 maintains the current level of the Universal Service Fund through 2021.

UPCOMING

SENATE REAPPOINTS STATE CONSERVATION COMMISSION

On September 20, the PA Senate voted 50-0 to confirm reappointments to the State Conservation Commission.  These include Ronald J. Rohall from Ligonier, Ronald E. Kopp, Middletown, and Michael Flinchbaugh, York.  Included in the same vote were two reappointments to the State Board of Auctioneers, Nevin Rentzel from York and Sherman Hostetter, Jr. from Beaver.

AG ONE Newsletter September 11, 2017

BUDGET, BUDGET, WHO’S GOT THE BUDGET?

This week the House returns to Harrisburg to continue its efforts to finalize a revenue budget (Fiscal Code). Right now, there are several options being considered.  First is the Senate option which generated controversy because of its tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production and other tax increases.  This was a non-starter for the House Republican leadership.  Two other major options being considered this week are:

THE TAXPAYERS’ BUDGET

Crafted by conservative Republican House members and released September 5, it does not raise taxes.  Instead, it taps into various special fund reserves.  This plan envisions $2.44 billion in revenue. Out of specified 55 funds, a number directly involve agriculture and rural PA.

  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Fund $27 million
  • Conservation Districts Fund $3.33 million
  • Racing Fund $27 million
  • State College Experimental Farm Fund $24,000
  • Volunteer Companies Loan Fund $25 million
  • Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund $100 million

Quick to react were DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell and PDA Secretary Russell Redding who said dedicated funds are there to meet specific needs and should not be using as one-time vehicles to balance the State Budget.

Working on the Taxpayers’ Budget were Reps. Dan Moul (R-Adams), Keith Gillespie (R-York), Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland), Seth Grove (R-York), Will Tallman, (R-Adams/Cumberland), Cris Dush (R-Jefferson/Indiana), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), Dave Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Joe Emrick (R-Northampton), Kate Klunk (R-York), Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks), Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin), Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) and Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland).

THE DiGIROLAMO BUDGET

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) presented an alternative budget for consideration on September 7. His proposal would:

  • Tax Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling 3% ($400 million)
  • Increase the rate of the Personal Income Tax (PIT) from the current 3.07% to 3.32% generating one billion dollars
  • $300 million in estimated gaming revenue (expansion to other cities)
  • $50-70 million from “alternatives to liquor privatization”
  • $44.3 million from expanding the reach of the Sales Tax to online marketplaces and booking agents
  • $400-500 million from “fund transfers”.

There are other budget options too.  Among them are House Bill 453 (Ryan-R-Lebanon) which addresses numerous budget areas such as how Tobacco Settlement money will be spent (tobacco cessation programs, etc.) and authorizes the Philadelphia Parking Authority to impose a one-percent tax on ride-sharing networks such as Uber, etc.. A Democratic alternative to Republicans’ State Budget ideas comes from Rep. Curtis Thomas (D-Phila.).  House Bill 542 also covers a wide span of State Budget areas.  Both of these bills were referred to the House Rules Committee September 8.

Adding his perspective, PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale argued for legalization of recreational use of marijuana which he says would bring in $200-300 million per year.  (Opinion editorial in Philly.com on September 7)

FALL SESSION DAYS

Month                                     Senate                         House

September                               18,19,20                     11,12,13,25,26,27

October                                   16,17,18,23,24,25       2,3,4,16,17,18,23,24,25

November                               13,14,15                      13,14,15,20,21,22

December                               11,12,13,18,19,20        4,5,6,11,12,13,18,19,20

POLITICS

On September 7, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-15) announced that he is not seeking re-election in 2018.  That brings to three the number of PA Members of Congress opting not to run.  Rep. Tom Marino (R-10) was tapped by the White House to serve as the Nation’s Drug Czar.  Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11) is not running for re-election as he is seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Senator Robert Casey. A House member, Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Montgomery/Northampton) is seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Dent as is fellow House member Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh).

REST IN PEACE… On September 8, Rep. Dan McNeil (D-Lehigh) passed away due to natural causes.  He was elected in 2012 and served on the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  Earlier, on September 1, former Rep. Bud George (D-Clearfield) died.  He served the citizens of his district in the General Assembly from 1974-2012.

UPCOMING…a program on Farmland Leasing and Land Opportunities will take place September 22 at the Chester County Economic Development Center.  Details: PA FarmLink 717-705-2121, www.pafarmlink.org

MEDIA RELEASE: PSCFO URGES HOUSE ACTION ON AGRICULTURE BUDGETS

PA STATE COUNCIL of FARM ORGANIZATIONS         MEDIA RELEASE August 21, 2017      

26 North 9th Street, Lemoyne, PA 17043

Contact:  Vince Phillips 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com      

The Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) urges the PA House of Representatives to take action on legislation which would allow already approved funds to go to agricultural programs at Pennsylvania State University and money going to the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

According to PSCFO which represents almost seventy agricultural and commodity groups, this legislation is called “non-preferred” and enables funding to some of PA’s universities.  Monies for Penn State School of Agricultural Sciences (agriculture research and extension programs) were already approved during the State Budget process which resulted in spending levels for state programs in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017.  The “non-preferred” legislation enables this already approved money to go to those programs.  In addition, Penn State faces another problem in that federal matching funds cannot flow to the College of Agricultural Sciences until PA General Assembly passes this enabling legislation. The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine will lose $30 million in state funding if “non-preferred” legislation is not passed.

“We ask that the House consider voting for these “non-preferred” bills separately from the divisive revenue-related issues now causing the budget impasse” said PSCFO President Jeff Nogan.

AG ONE Newsletter August 21, 2017

PSCFO BOARD SEEKS RENEWAL OF AG FUNDING

On August 16, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) Board met at AG Progress Days to discuss Harrisburg’s State Budget impasse.  While not getting into various revenue options, PSCFO will be urging legislators to pass the so-called “non-preferred” bills which supply funding to institutions of higher learning.  These enable Ag funding for two agricultural programs, the ones at Penn State (Land Scrip Fund – extension and agriculture research) and the University of Pennsylvania (Vet School).  Penn State’s School of Agricultural Sciences is additionally hampered because federal funds to the school cannot be released until funding enabling legislation is passed by the General Assembly.  On August 12, PSCFO sent out an advisory to Council members detailing the situation and urging action.

WOLF TOUTS ADMINISTRATION SUPPORT OF AGRICULTURE

In an address to a capacity crowd at AG Progress Days, Governor Tom Wolf called PA Agriculture one of the Commonwealth’s most important economic and environmental resources.  In the speech, he said that since 2015, PA Department of Agriculture operational funding has been increased by 23%, that two million additional dollars were allocated for avian influenza planning and response, and that farmland preservation funding had increased by 45% compared to fiscal year 2014-15.  In addition, three million dollars were allocated to distribute fresh farm products to the needy through PA’s food banks.  The Governor charted an ambitious 10-year strategic plan for PA Agriculture including increasing PA’s competitiveness and developing a workforce to meet PA’s future needs.

FARMLAND PRESERVATION UPDATE

On August 11, the PA Department of Agriculture announced that it added 33 farms in 12 counties to the roster of 5,169 farms in 59 counties preserved for future agricultural production.

REGULATORY UPDATES

  • PA Wine Marketing & Research Program Board grant applications deadline are due to PA Department of Agriculture Bureau of Market Development ATT: Agricultural Commodity Board Grant Program, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17011 by September 1, 2017.
  • Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cancelled the August 24 meeting of the Agricultural Advisory Board.  The next meeting is scheduled for October 26, 2017.
  • DEP announced that the annual Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report which was submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is available. (Water Quality Division 717-787-9637 or RA-WQAssessments@pa.gov )  This report documents PA’s water quality management programs per the federal Clean Water Act.  The report also identifies “impaired” waters even after appropriate pollution control technology has been applied to point sources and best practices are in place for nonpoint sources.
  • On August 11, the PA Department of Agriculture August 11 identified 21 additional municipalities in Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton Counties to be quarantined due to the presence of the invasive insect, Spotted Lanternfly.  Parts of Chester County were previously quarantined.

NATIVE AMERICAN AG SCHOLARSHIPS …The First Nation Development Institute is now accepting applications for five $1,000 scholarships to Native American college students majoring in agriculture and related fields such as agribusiness, agriscience, animal husbandry, horticulture, irrigation, food safety, etc.  Deadline for applications is September 28, 2017.  Details: www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship .

SCHOLARSHIPS 2017-18 AND BEYOND

It is not too early to look at scholarships for the 2018-19 college year.  Just updated, www.scholarships.com  has a list of at least 100 agriculture-specific scholarships.  Some are state-specific but many should be considered as active leads for any current student or enrolling student.  Details:  https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-major/agriculture-scholarships/

PENNSYLVANIA’S COLLEGE AGRICULTURE PROGRAMS

In addition to the Big Three (Penn State University, Delaware Valley University and University of Pennsylvania), there are other Pennsylvania colleges and universities offering agricultural studies. (www.american-school-search.com/colleges/agriculture/pennsylvania )

  • Temple University has three agriculture majors: Chatham University (Pittsburgh) has two majors as does Pennsylvania College of Technology (Williamsport)
  • Degree programs: Wilson College (Chambersburg), Arcadia University (Glenside)
  • Associate degrees: Bidwell Training Center (Pittsburgh) and Harcum College (Bryn Mawr). A specialized program is offered by PA Institute of Taxidermy (Ebensburg)
  • Community and regional colleges: Westmoreland County Community College (Youngwood), Schuylkill Technology Center (Frackville), Harrisburg Area Community College, Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Lancaster County Career and Technology Center (Willow Street)

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.
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