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.

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

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

Agriculture’s Regulatory Agenda

PDA LogoAgriculture’s Regulatory Agenda

On July 19, the PA Bulletin published a list of proposed regulations for each agency.  PA Department of Agriculture had ten:  Domestic Animal (December 2014); Weights & Measures (September 2013); Commercial Feed (summer 2014); Pet Food Rules (summer 2014), Fertilizer Regulations (December 2015), Soil & Plant Regulations (December 2015), Clean & Green (August 2014), Conservation Easement Purchase Program (August 2014), PA Preferred (summer 2014), Pesticide Regulations (September 2014).  Details: http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol44/44-29/1552.html

USDA Sandy Easement Apps Due April 18

USDA will accept applications for easements until April 18, 2014 from landowners who want to enroll floodplains impacted by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. If approved, the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will purchase the easements on eligible lands and restore the area to natural conditions.

In addition to being hit by Sandy, the land must have been damaged by flooding at least twice in the past ten years or once in the last calendar year. Also possibly eligible is land impacted by a dam breach or where the purchase would contribute to the restoration of flood storage or flow, provide for erosion control, or improve the practical management of the floodplain easement.

Click here for details and link to application forms. So far, awards have gone to NY ($7.5 million), CT ($7.5 million), and NJ ($4.1 million).

Regulatory Update for March 2014

Every year, each state cabinet agency is required to post proposed regulations in the PA Bulletin. This year, PDA has eleven. PA Preferred Program rules are expected to be final this month; Pesticide Testing June 2014; Clean and Green April 2014; Agricultural Conservation –Easement Purchase July 2014; Soil & Plant December 2014; Fertilizer December 2014; Pet Rules & Regulations April 2014; Commercial Feed Rules April 2014; Domestic Animal Rules December 2014; Weights & Measures rules were supposed to have been issued September 2013. Details and contact persons for each proposed rule are at http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol44/44-5/255.html.