AG ONE Newsletter May 30, 2017

CONTROLLED PLANT/NOXIOUS WEED BILL CLEARS HOUSE

House Bill 790 sponsored by House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) passed the House 194-0 on May 22.  It seeks to update the list of noxious weeds and provide a mechanism to review and assess risks of potential additions to the list.  HB 790 also incorporates weeds listed under the Federal Noxious Weed List.  There is a Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 567 sponsored by Senators David Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

OTHER LEGISLATIVE BILLS OF INTEREST

Two bills of possible interest were referred to the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee May 25.  Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) introduced House Bill 1459 to exempt hatcheries built more than 20 years ago in the most rural portion of the state from the regulatory Authority of the Clean Streams Law.  Authored by Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), House Bill 20 would impose a water usage surcharge on commercial entities.  It was also referred to the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee May 25.  NOTE:  Agricultural water use is exempted from this bill.

McDONNELL CONFIRMED AS DEP SECRETARY

Patrick McDonnell finally was confirmed by the PA Senate May 22 as Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after serving in an acting capacity for a year.   Before being nominated by Governor Tom Wolf, McDonnell served as DEP Director of Policy and ran the state’s Energy Office, coordinating renewable energy and energy efficiency issues.

MORE CABINET NEWS

Last week, Governor Wolf designated Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller as the new Secretary of the proposed consolidated Department of Health & Human Services.  If approved by the General Assembly, the consolidation will merge the existing Departments of Health, Human Services, Drug & Alcohol Programs and Aging.  Also last week, Health Department Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy announced that she was leaving her post in June.

REAL ID LAW SIGNED INTO LAW

On May 26, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 133, sponsored by Senator Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), into law as Act 3 of 2017.  This law allows PA citizens to continue to use a PA Driver’s License as identification. If Pennsylvania had not acted to bring the Commonwealth into compliance with REAL ID, the result would have Pennsylvanians not being able to access assistance from Federal offices including Social Security, Farm Service offices, military facilities, etc. as well as having a barrier to commercial air travel without a passport or federal ID.

 REGULATORY NOTE:  The PA Milk Marketing Board will hold a June 7 hearing for Milk Marketing Area 1.  Details: deberly@pa.gov

SENATE MOVES UNIFORM CONSTRUCTION CODE BILL

On May 24, Senate Bill 269 (Baker-R-Luzerne, Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming) passed the Senate by a 40-10 vote.  The legislation seeks to streamline the process whereby the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council (RAC) reviews international building code changes and decides whether PA should adopt them.  SB 269 says that where there are no negative comments or requests for modification, the international code change could be adopted through RAC consensus versus a 2/3 vote now in statute.  If contested, there would still need to be a 2/3 vote by RAC to ratify the change for PA.   Nine Democrats joined with GOP Senator Michele Brooks (R-Mercer/Warren/Crawford/Erie) to vote against SB 269.

DEP PERMIT LEGISLATION

Bills have been introduced to address criticisms on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit process.  Senate Bill 487 (Vogel-R-Beaver) directs DEP to establish a secure online tracking system so that permit applicants can check their status.  Existing permit holders would receive a 60-day reminder of their permit’s expiration.  In addition, permit holders would be grandfathered against new legislative or regulatory changes that would have otherwise affected the permit approval.  There is a House counterpart, House Bill 587 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster).  House Bill 1353 (Bloom-R-Cumberland) directs DEP to notify applicants about specific application problems (missing information, deficient compliance with laws or regulations, etc.) and spell out what corrections need to be made.  Specific sections of law or regulations needing compliance must be identified in the DEP communication.  Introduced by House Republican Policy Committee Chair Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre), House Bill 1090 holds DEP accountable to certain timeframes and establishes procedures for initial review, approval/rejection of permit applications.  Another Benninghoff bill is House Bill 1091 which creates a process where applicants that do not receive a final permit decision by the review deadline may appeal DEP’s failure to act to the Environmental Hearing Board.

GRANT DEADLINE NEARS

  • June 30 is the deadline for grant use from the Center for Dairy Excellence and the Center for Beef Excellence. These $1,000 grants reimburse farmers for professional services designed to help them prepare Nutrient Management, Manure Management, Agriculture Erosion and Sediment Plans.  Details:  Ann Nogan, Center for Beef Excellence 717-705-1689, anogancbe@gmail.com;  Melissa Anderson, Center for Dairy Excellence 717-346-0849, manderson@centerfordairyexcellence.org

AG ONE Newsletter March 20, 2017

DEPARTMENT ISSUES AVIAN INFLUENZA PRECAUTIONARY

According to Secretary Russell Redding as quoted in a PA Department of Agriculture March 6 press release, “After a year reprieve, high-path avian influenza is back in the lower 48 states and that should be a cause for concern. The best defense against HPAI is a good offense, beginning with an effective biosecurity plan that has been prepared, planned and practiced by individual facilities. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture also urges flock owners to develop a site-specific HPAI flock plan.”

Per the Department, there is $2 million dedicated to this purpose in addition to the $1.1 million already invested in preparedness during FY 2015-16.  The Department’s State Veterinarian, Dr. David Wolfgang, explained that biosecurity plans should focus on cleanliness and isolating domestic birds from those in the wild. This also means keeping livestock, domestic animals, rodents and other pests away. Agricultural producers have also been made aware that that the virus can be carried on shoes and boots as well as tools and vehicle tires, so flock owners should limit visitors and deliveries to only those who have cleaned and sanitized appropriately.  Those who see signs of infection are urged to call 717-772-2852.  PDA’s website has a section dealing with HPAI and biosecurity measures, www.agriculture.pa.gov

TRUMP BUDGET CUTS FEDERAL RURAL DOLLARS

The Federal Budget proposed by President Donald Trump increases spending for Defense/Homeland Security and includes major cuts at the State Department/ foreign aid programs as well as cutting resources for the Environmental Protection Agency and USDA.  Discretionary spending for USDA saw a $4.7 billion or 20.7% reduction.  This was third largest percentage cut after the EPA (-31.4%) and the State Department (-28.7%).  This Budget includes discretionary spending which makes up about a quarter of the total Federal Budget.  In May, President Trump is expected to lay out his ideas for mandated programs such as Crop Insurance and other farm programs.  Some of the cuts enumerated in this proposal include cuts to USDA county –level staff, NASS funding, elimination of USDA’s rural wastewater and water loan and grant program (consolidating into an EPA program).  The Budget also seeks $350 million for agriculture research funded through the Agriculture & Food Research initiative, half of what was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA nutrition programs (WIC and SNAP) would see a $200 million drop.  The elimination of Chesapeake Bay funding prompted Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell to say that the proposed Federal Budget would “abandon farmers.”

BILLS TO WATCH

  • House Bill 587 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster) and Senate Bill 487 (Vogel-R-Beaver) mandate creation of a DEP online tracking system to see where DEP permit applications are in the approval process.
  • House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) replaces the Noxious Weed Control Act of 1982 with an updated Controlled Plant & Noxious Weed Act.
  • House Bill 187 (Sonney-R-Erie) allows preserved farms to grant right of way for wind energy generation.
  • House Bill 503 (Charlton-R-Delaware) proposes Growing Greener III to provide a potential $315 million for conservation, farmland preservation, etc. Senators Killion, Alloway and McIlhinney plan similar legislation in the Senate.
  • House Bill 557 (Everett-R-Lycoming) seeks to protect property owners’ rights when it comes to natural gas royalty payments. Similar legislation (Senate Bills 138 and 139) from Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) is seeing Senate action.
  • House Bill 251 (Kauffman-R-Franklin provides for a Farmland Preservation license plate.
  • Senate Bill 246 (Leach-D-Chester/Delaware) prohibits use of certain antibiotics in farm animal feed

AND, IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, The PA House adopted House Resolution 67 (M. Keller-R-Perry) recognizing the week of February 18-25, 2017 as “FFA Week”.

PEOPLE…

PDA Deputy Secretary Cheryl Cook was awarded the National Farmers’ Union’s highest honor, The NFU Meritorious Service Award at the group’s annual convention in San Diego.

GRANTS/SCHOLARSHIPS

  • Monsanto offers $10,000 and $25,000 grants to school districts nominated by farmers.  If awarded, grant(s) will help a school district develop or strengthen a Math/Science program.  Nominations of school districts must be submitted by April 1, 2017.  Monsanto will contact a nominated school district to help them develop a specific proposal – with a quick turn-around of April 15.  Details: www.GrowRuralEducation.com .
  • Bayer Bee Care Leadership Award recognizes partnerships between beekeepers and growers, golf courses, researchers, or other stakeholders to protect pollinators.  Award is $5,000.  A $1,000 award recognizes a young beekeeper under 18 years of age for school or community work in building apiaries and researching ways to improve honey bee health.  (May 17 deadline) Contact: https://www.cropscience.bayer.us/contact
  • PA Septage Management Association offers a $1,000 scholarship to an employee, child or grandchild of those involved in onlot systems installation or maintenance.  Deadline for applications is May 15, 2017.  (NOTE: PSMA member companies only).  Details: www.psma.net

GENERAL FARM ORGANIZATION SCHOLARSHIPS

  • PA Friends of Agriculture Foundation (PA Farm Bureau) for Penn State, Delaware Valley, or University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine pfb.com
  • PA State Grange pagrange.org for Penn State. There is also a separate scholarship for those enrolled in an interpreter for the deaf program.  NOTE: Deadline is May 1, 2017.
  • National Farmers Union www.nfu.org/education/scholarships   It does not specify a particular college.

Deadlines, Deadlines…

  • Calendar-iconFebruary 24, 2015: deadline to submit pre-proposals for USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants for “environmental markets and conservation projects that engage agricultural producers.”  Details: http://go.usa.gov/4Kvx  Sylvia Rainford 202/720-2536.
  • February 27, 2015 deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program for ranchers and forest landowners.  Applications should be submitted to local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offices.  Details: www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted
  • February 27, 2015, deadline to submit Federal Specialty Crop Block Grant proposals to Morgan Sheffield, PDA Bureau of Market Development 717/787-3568.
  • March 2, 2015: Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for “projects that promote environmental stewardship and economic development in the state.”  Projects must have been completed between August 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014.  Example areas:  Innovative Technology; Energy Solutions; Environmental Education; Watershed Restoration.  Only electronic nominations (including self) will be accepted. Details: http://files.dep.state.pa.us/AboutDEP/AwardsAndInnovation/GovernorAwardForEnvExcellence/2015%20GAEE%20Guidelines%20Final.pdf
  • March 9, 2015:  deadline for Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program.  REAP provides tax credits to agricultural producers who install best management practices or purchase on-farm no-till equipment that reduces soil erosion and sedimentation in PA’s streams and rivers.  Applications are available at www.pda.state.pa.us/REAP under ‘Forms’ or Joel Semke, State Conservation Commission 717/705-4032.
  • March 15, 2015: Crop Insurance enrollment deadline for new AGR-Lite whole farm revenue new applications; spring barley, corn, forage seeding (spring), grain sorghum, oats (spring), soybeans, tobacco.  (Thanks to Penn State Professor of Agricultural Economics Jayson Harper)   PDA contact is Jordan Stasyszn 717/6901

PDA Publishes Grant Criteria

PDA Logo - GrantIn the December 6 PA Bulletin, the PA Department of Agriculture published details regarding funding for PA agricultural organizations which conduct agricultural fairs and organizations that contribute to the development of agriculture and agribusinesses as well as eligible agriculture youth groups.  Among those included are horse racing organizations, 4-H, and FFA county organizations.  A link to the Notice follows:

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol44/44-49/2509.html

More Legislative Activity…

LegislationWith 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.

REAP Applicaton Period Opens

CREP-PAHARRISBURG – Farmers who want to use best management practices or purchase on-farm conservation equipment can now apply for tax credits through the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program.

The period where agricultural producers who completed projects may submit applications began Aug. 4, and those with proposed projects can begin applying Aug. 25.

For details: Joel Semke 717/705-4032, jsemke@pa.gov. Application forms are accessible through www.pda.state.pa.us/REAP.

August 4 Deadline for Elk County SBA Disaster Loans

sba-featureOn June 5, the Small Business Administration declared Elk County a disaster area after severe May 21-22 flooding. Filing deadline for physical property damage is August 4, 2014.

SBA Loans

Loans of up to $200,000 are available for homeowners and loans of up to $2 million are available for businesses to restore damaged or destroyed buildings, inventory, equipment and assets. Details: 800/659-2955. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center is located in Ridgeway.

USDA Rural Development Invites REAP Applications

USDA RD TagUSDA is seeking applications from small businesses and agricultural producers for funding (both loans and grants) to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees. Businesses not involved directly in production agriculture may also apply.

Mentioned in the USDA announcement was a PA veterinary practice in Curryville, Blair County, PA which received a $10,525 REAP grant to install solar panels on his roof. Details: Dawn Bonsell 717-237-2286 or Jay Fletcher 202/690-0498.

USDA Lists Farm Bill Food Project Opportunities

farm-bill-smUSDA May 8 announced that $78 million in Farm Bill resources for local and regional food systems including farmers markets, processing facilities, distribution services and other local food business enterprises is available.

This funding comes from Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program (B&I) and the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program. AMS’ deadline is June 20, 2014.

B&I: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_gar.html

AMS: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/AMSgrants 

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