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.

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.