AG ONE Newsletter May 4, 2017

STATE COUNCIL SELECTS LEADERSHIP

At its Annual Meeting in Harrisburg, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) selected its new leadership for 2017-18.

Officers
President                               Jeff Nogan (PA Cattlemen), previously Vice President
Vice President                        Gregg Robertson (PLNA), previously Secretary/Treasurer
Secretary/Treasurer               Tim Wentz (Northeast Equipment Dealers), previously Board
Immediate Past President       Eugene Richard (PA Mushroom Farmers), previous President

Board
Heidi Secord (Farmers Union), re-elected
Brenda Shambaugh (PACD), re-elected
Jennifer Heltzel (Dairy Farmers of America), new to Board
Steve Case (PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture), new

USDA ISSUES SCHOOL LUNCH CHANGE

On May 1, 2017, new USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a Proclamation mandating changes in the school lunch programs.  Citing that “schools have worked diligently to overcome operational challenges in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs”, he addressed flexibility in meeting sodium requirements, allowing waivers to school districts in trying to achieve whole-grain goals, and giving school districts the option of serving one-percent fat flavored milk.  As Secretary Perdue said “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition.”

PSCFO MEMBERS ADDRESS FEDERAL BUDGET CUTS

Four PSCFO members, PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture, PA Farmers Union, PA Association of Conservation Districts, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation, wrote the chairs of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees April 5 urging restoration of conservation funds cut in the Budget proposed by the Trump Administration.  Among the specifics were calls to reject proposed cuts in NCRS field staff and to provide at least $865 million in “critical discretionary funding for Conservation Operations, including Conservation Technical Assistance.”

LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

  • On April 26, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported out two bills:
  • House Bill 187 (Sonney-R-Erie) amends the Agriculture Area Security Law to provide for wind power easements on protected (preserved) farmland.
  • House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) updates the Noxious Weed Control Law and re-names it as the Controlled Weed and Noxious Weed Act. A link to Rep. Pashinski’s summary follows.  He serves as Minority Chair of the committee.  A Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 567, was introduced by Senator Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill).  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20170&cosponId=22746
  • On April 25, the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee reported out Senate Bill 144 (Yaw-R-Lycoming).  This would require DEP consideration of alternate technologies when an onlot septic system is installed.  Although opposed by DEP, SB 144 was passed unanimously by the committee. It is a major priority of PSCFO member PA Septage Management Association.

HEARINGS

The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee plans a hearing May 10 in Harrisburg to discuss the 2017-18 State Budget for the PA Department of Agriculture with Secretary Russell Redding.  On May 3, Redding sent a letter to various agricultural groups warning that House-passed House Bill 218 would hurt PDA’s ability to complete its regulatory responsibilities.  On May 10, the House Transportation Committee will convene a hearing on Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to levy a per-person tax on rural municipalities who rely on PA State Police for law enforcement in lieu of having their own police force.  Proponents argue that these State Police services should be paid for by the communities which use State Police as primary law enforcement.  Opponents suggest that many smaller communities simply cannot afford this cost, leading to insufficient protection for citizens.

MORE SCHOLARSHIP/AWARD OPPORTUNITIES

  • The PA Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation and PA Dairymens’ Association offer ten scholarships.  Eligibility includes being a PA resident enrolled in certain agricultural fields of study with an intention to work in the dairy industry.  Details: Mary Foote 717-346-0849, mfoote@centerfordairyexcellence.org.  Deadline is June 1.
  • National Corn Growers Association offers The Fields of Corn Photo Contest geared toward photos of field corn (Not sweet) from seed to harvest.  There are 25 cash prizes including a $500 grand prize. Details: http://www.fields-of-corn.com. Entries are due Nov. 1, 2017

FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in TAMAQUA JUNE 1st

In conjunction with Schuylkill County’s legislative delegation and with financial support from the PA Department of Agriculture, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations is offering a no-cost seminar on Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance to produce farmers in the region.  Held June 1 in Tamaqua, It will cover elements of a farm risk management plan which includes food safety, Crop Insurance, and information on what to ask an insurance agent to make sure that farmers’ insurance needs are met.  Details: 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com.

Also, PSCFO member PA Farmers Union is planning FSMA compliance webinars: www.pafarmersnion.org

Various Notes

  • PDA asked gardeners to be on the lookout for Boxwood Blight, a fungal disease-causing sudden leaf loss and possible death of these popular evergreen shrubs. It has been found in nine states and in nine PA counties: Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, and Warren. Those affected are asked to take samples to Extension before destroying the potentially impacted plant.
  • PSCFO member Hunger-Free PA announced that the PA Food Safety Coalition will convene October 16, 2015 in Harrisburg. Details: sachristopher@pafoodbanks.org.
  • Native Americans college students majoring in agriculture or related disciplines may be eligible for one of five $1,000 scholarships from First Nations Development Institute. Application deadline is September 30, 2015. Details: Kendall Tallmadge at 303-774-7836 or ktallmadge@firstnations.org

Cheese-Making Growing In Pennsylvania

Cheese Sue MillerCHESTER SPRINGS – Sue Miller loves hanging out in her cheese cave.

“Sometimes I get attached to certain wheels of cheese,” said Miller, co-owner of Birchrun Hills Farm, a dairy farm in Chester Springs. “And my husband says, ‘You know, it’s meant to be sold.’ ”

She knows.

Her love of cheese grew out of necessity. About nine years ago, declining milk prices and rising costs had Miller and her husband, Ken, worried they might lose the small farm they hoped one day to pass on to their two sons.

Like other small dairy operators across the country, the first-generation farmers decided they needed to innovate to survive.

Read more in the Philadelphia Inquirer …

Farmers Market Coupons Begin June 1

Farmers marketAccording to a PDA, WIC recipients and low-income senior citizens can again receive assistance to purchase fresh PA fruits and vegetables through PDA’s Bureau of Food Distribution Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

Beginning June 1, qualified recipients can sign up to receive $20 in vouchers to purchase fresh products from approved farmers. Details: 800.468.2433.

PSCFO Annual Meeting Re-Cap

Elections:

Re-elected were officers Brian Snyder (PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture) as President, Eugene Richard (Mushroom Farmers of PA) as Vice President, and Jeff Nogan (PA Cattlemen’s Association) as Secretary-Treasurer. Re-elected was Gregg Robertson (PA Landscape & Nursery Association) to a second term.

Two new Board members are:

  • Carl Meiss (PA State Grange)
  • Hannah Smith- Brubaker (PA Farmers’ Union)

In other actions:

  • Briefings from PDA confirmed that the FDA proposed Food Safety Rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act would be re-drafted by the Federal agency in great part because of advocacy by PDA, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and farm groups such as PA Vegetable Growers Association, PA Farm Bureau, PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture, and PSCFO. There is a separate animal feed regulation also being considered by FDA and PennAg briefed the Board and Council on what it seeks to do. One issue is that a farm is defined as a facility which means that the Food and drug Administration would have authority to inspect and impose sanctions on almost every PA farm.
  • The Cornucopia Taste of PA Reception drew a record number of exhibitors from farm groups and a record number of approximately 100 legislators.

The annual meeting of the PSCFO in Harrisburg resulted in significant front-page publicity in Lancaster Farming magazine. http://www.lancasterfarming.com/-State-Ag-Council-Celebrates-Political-Trifecta-#.U0-1VKKg4k_ This underscores the increased visibility and advocacy of PSCFO and it is something of which we all can all be proud.