Legislative Updates

  • Adopted by the Senate unanimously July 14 was Senate Resolution 169 (Vogel-R-Beaver) recognizing 2015 as “International Year of Soils” in Pennsylvania. SR 169 stresses the importance of soil to the Commonwealth both economically and in terms of food supply and recognizes the work of professional soil scientists.
  • Senate Resolution 55 (Hutchinson-R-Venango) creating a Forestry Task Force was reported out by the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee July 14.
  • Rep. Martin Causer (R-McKean) introduced legislation to establish a Small Stream Maintenance Permit to be issued by county conservation districts at no cost in order to facilitate removing obstructions and flood-related hazards from streams. House Bill 1433 was referred to the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee July 6.

Committees Move Ag Easement Bills

Riparian BufferOn May 6, two agricultural easement bills moved through committee:

  • The House Local Government Committee reported out House Bill 859 (Staats-R-Bucks) excluding from tax a transfer of a perpetual agricultural conservation easement as defined by the Agricultural Area Security Law.
  • The Senate Finance Committee reported Senate Bill 556 (McIlhinney-R-Bucks) which excludes from the Real Estate Transfer Tax a conservation easement in perpetuity having as its purpose preservation of open or agricultural land to the S., Commonwealth of PA, or to a 501( c)(3) organization which has as its purpose land preservation.

USDA Extends Comment Period for Ag Conservation Easement

USDA_logoThe USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that the deadline for public comment on the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) interim rule has been extended to May 28, 2015.  Comments should go to Public Comments, Docket Number NRCS-2014-0011, Regulatory & Policy Team, USDA NRCS, 5601 Sunnyside Building, 1-1112D, Beltsville, MD 20705 or electronically via regulations.gov.

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

2015: International Year of Soils

SoilsOn December 5, USDA announced that it was promoting the United Nations’ designation of 2015 as the International Year of Soils, an effort to promote the importance of soils in everyday life.

According to the media release, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization spearheaded the international effort because the “year of awareness aims to increase understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.”  Details: www.nrcs.usda.gov/.

There may be some state specific observances of the International Year of Soils organized by the PA Association of Professional Soil Scientists, details pending.

Ag Progress Days

Ag progress Days Crowd and Tents_0ROCK SPRINGS – The 2014 Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences AG PROGRESS Days August 12-14 in Rock Springs features a wide variety of programs, several of which are listed below.  (Complete listing at http://agsci.psu.edu/apd/events)

  •  Marcellus Shale: August 12 includes no fewer than five programs including Post-Leasing Issues for Landowners and Negotiating Natural Gas Pipeline Easements in Agricultural Land.  In addition, DEP will present a program on how Marcellus Shale natural gas resources are regulated as well as describing proposed revisions currently under consideration.
  • Public Policy: Farm Bill Dairy Margin Protection; Public Forum on 2014 Farm Bill and State of PA Agriculture; House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Public Hearing.  These are all on August 13.
  • Conservation/Environment: USDA Agricultural Research Service is presenting a program August 14 on Riparian conservation for managed grazing lands.  It ties conservation objectives (habitat, nutrients, sediments) to agricultural production objectives (watering source, maximizing land productivity) with management options (moveable fence, flash grazing).ROCK SPRINGS

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.