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.

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

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.

Budget Numbers (Still) Improving

budget paThe PA Revenue Department May 4 announced that collections in April exceeded expectations by $201 million.  This brings year-to-date revenues to $569.1 million above estimate.  This extra revenue was seen in Corporate Net Income Tax, Personal Property Tax, and Sales & Use Tax.  Two areas where revenues came in lower than anticipated were Real Estate Transfer Tax and cigarette/table games/liquor taxes.  This $569.1 million surplus may impact Budget negotiations between the Governor and General Assembly.

Don’t Miss the March 3 PSCFO Meeting!

Cornucopia 2012 200x167The March 3 Council program will feature both Republican and Democratic Chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees to discuss what agricultural issues are likely to come up before the General Assembly.

In addition, PA Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding will present some of the Wolf Administration’s thinking on how PA Agriculture jobs and workforce development are central to Pennsylvania’s total economic well-being.

March 3 is also the day when Governor Wolf presents his State Budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015 to the General Assembly so expect plenty of buzz about the Department of Agriculture budget.   The PSCFO Board truly hopes you will attend this informative and useful session.

Click here for more information.

State Tax Revenues Continue Upward Trend

Graph-UpThe PA Department of Revenue released figures showing January 2015 General Fund revenue at $2.4 billion, bringing year to date collections $360.4 million over estimate.  Breakdown showing year to date estimates are: Sales Tax $66.6 million more than anticipated; Personal Income Tax $400,000 over estimate; Corporate Tax Revenue $162.6 million more than anticipated; Inheritance Tax revenue $81.5 million more than anticipated; Other General Fund taxes (tobacco, malt beverage, liquor and table games) showed $23 million above estimate.  On the negative side was the Real Estate Transfer Tax which came in $28.4 million below estimates.

Why the Budget Buzz?

BudgetThe Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), created by the General Assembly in 2010 to give the legislature a separate tool for State Budget analysis, released a report that said PA is in for hard times (http://www.ifo.state.pa.us/Releases.cfm).

IFO said that the fiscal year State Budget beginning July 1, 2015 could not utilize the $619 million one-time devices and $572 in non-recurring revenues used by the Corbett Administration to balance this year’s budget and so will be $1.85 billion in the red for FY 2015-16.

Part of that analysis included an IFO prediction that PA would have $171 million less than expected this fiscal year — and that figure may be questioned given  better than estimated revenue numbers reported for October and November — $109 million more than anticipated for this fiscal year.

IFO, the Corbett Administration and the incoming Wolf Administration agree that the Commonwealth will be challenged but there is significant disagreement as to the causes and obviously whether or not the Corbett Administration got Pennsylvania out of a Rendell fiscal hole or into a new one.

The Governor’s Budget Office’s December 3 briefing recognized the fiscal shortfall. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said that “we’ve faced these sorts of deficits every year in this administration” and they are due to mandated costs exceeding revenues.  For the 2015-16 Fiscal Year, Zogby said that there would be spending increases in debt service (interest), corrections, pensions, and in the Department of Human Services (formerly Department of Public Welfare).

Governor-elect Wolf’s transition team issued a statement December 2 which said:

  • The FY 2014-15 Budget was built on one-time revenue sources
  • Prediction: PA will be cash-flow negative from January-March 2015.
  • The state has maxed its line of credit
  • PA is 50th in the nation in job creation.

Secretary Greig Invites PSCFO to Town Meeting

greig_official-300x250HARRISBURG – On August 14 at 10:00 a.m. in the Red Barn, PDA Secretary Greig has invited members of the Pa. State Council of Farm Organizations to participate in a Town Hall meeting. This will be an open dialogue between the Department and attendees.

Among other things, discussions will include FDA regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), implementation of the Farm Bill, the PDA Budget for the state fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, and a host of other regulatory topics.

Other topics of interest to PSCFO members such as the EPA’s proposed water definition and the feral hog issue may also be addressed.

RSVPs are needed because of limited seating.  Ben Junkin 717/787-5789, bejunkin@pa.gov

Agriculture Survives State Budget Woes

budget paThe Pa. Department of Agriculture survived the state budget gauntlet in Harrisburg for Fiscal Year 2014-15 which began July 1. PSCFO wrote legislative leaders June 29 to say Many of PSCFO’s sixty-plus agricultural organizations are directly affected by the staff capacity at PDA. In this case, a modest increase will stabilize the PDA budget and allow it to meet its directives from the General Assembly.” Following are a number of PDA budget line items compared with the last fiscal year.

 

Line Item                    2014-15 Enacted Budget        2013-14 Available                Change

General Gov’t Operations       25.269 million                       22.703 million                     +11.3%

Ag Excellence                               1.1 million                               600,000                     +83.3%

Farmers’ Market Coupons        2.079 million                         2.079 million                       same

Ag Research                                  787,000                                787,000                       same

Promotion, Ed. & Exports               250,000                                196,000                     +27.6%

Hardwoods Promotion                   350,000                                350,000                        same

Livestock Show                             177,000                                177,000                        same

Open Dairy Show                           177,000                                177,000                        same

Youth Shows                                 140,000                                140,000                        same

State Food Purchase              17.438 million                        17.438 million                        same

Marketing & Research                     494,000                                494,000                        same

Nutrient Management               2.714 million                          2.714 million                        same

Conservation Districts                     869,000                                869,000                        same

Land Scrip Fund                      46.237 million                        46.237 million                       same

(NOTE: This is not what Penn State Ag Research and Extension was budgeted for last year.  Comparison is for the available funds, not the budget-approved amount.)

PA Preferred                                   550,000                                550,000                        same

UPenn Veterinary                           28 million                               28 million                        same

UPenn Infectious Disease                 261,000                                261,000                        same

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/current_and_proposed_commonwealth_budgets/4566

« Older Entries