AG ONE Newsletter September 11, 2017

BUDGET, BUDGET, WHO’S GOT THE BUDGET?

This week the House returns to Harrisburg to continue its efforts to finalize a revenue budget (Fiscal Code). Right now, there are several options being considered.  First is the Senate option which generated controversy because of its tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production and other tax increases.  This was a non-starter for the House Republican leadership.  Two other major options being considered this week are:

THE TAXPAYERS’ BUDGET

Crafted by conservative Republican House members and released September 5, it does not raise taxes.  Instead, it taps into various special fund reserves.  This plan envisions $2.44 billion in revenue. Out of specified 55 funds, a number directly involve agriculture and rural PA.

  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Fund $27 million
  • Conservation Districts Fund $3.33 million
  • Racing Fund $27 million
  • State College Experimental Farm Fund $24,000
  • Volunteer Companies Loan Fund $25 million
  • Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund $100 million

Quick to react were DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell and PDA Secretary Russell Redding who said dedicated funds are there to meet specific needs and should not be using as one-time vehicles to balance the State Budget.

Working on the Taxpayers’ Budget were Reps. Dan Moul (R-Adams), Keith Gillespie (R-York), Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland), Seth Grove (R-York), Will Tallman, (R-Adams/Cumberland), Cris Dush (R-Jefferson/Indiana), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), Dave Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Joe Emrick (R-Northampton), Kate Klunk (R-York), Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks), Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin), Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) and Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland).

THE DiGIROLAMO BUDGET

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) presented an alternative budget for consideration on September 7. His proposal would:

  • Tax Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling 3% ($400 million)
  • Increase the rate of the Personal Income Tax (PIT) from the current 3.07% to 3.32% generating one billion dollars
  • $300 million in estimated gaming revenue (expansion to other cities)
  • $50-70 million from “alternatives to liquor privatization”
  • $44.3 million from expanding the reach of the Sales Tax to online marketplaces and booking agents
  • $400-500 million from “fund transfers”.

There are other budget options too.  Among them are House Bill 453 (Ryan-R-Lebanon) which addresses numerous budget areas such as how Tobacco Settlement money will be spent (tobacco cessation programs, etc.) and authorizes the Philadelphia Parking Authority to impose a one-percent tax on ride-sharing networks such as Uber, etc.. A Democratic alternative to Republicans’ State Budget ideas comes from Rep. Curtis Thomas (D-Phila.).  House Bill 542 also covers a wide span of State Budget areas.  Both of these bills were referred to the House Rules Committee September 8.

Adding his perspective, PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale argued for legalization of recreational use of marijuana which he says would bring in $200-300 million per year.  (Opinion editorial in Philly.com on September 7)

FALL SESSION DAYS

Month                                     Senate                         House

September                               18,19,20                     11,12,13,25,26,27

October                                   16,17,18,23,24,25       2,3,4,16,17,18,23,24,25

November                               13,14,15                      13,14,15,20,21,22

December                               11,12,13,18,19,20        4,5,6,11,12,13,18,19,20

POLITICS

On September 7, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-15) announced that he is not seeking re-election in 2018.  That brings to three the number of PA Members of Congress opting not to run.  Rep. Tom Marino (R-10) was tapped by the White House to serve as the Nation’s Drug Czar.  Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11) is not running for re-election as he is seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Senator Robert Casey. A House member, Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Montgomery/Northampton) is seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Dent as is fellow House member Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh).

REST IN PEACE… On September 8, Rep. Dan McNeil (D-Lehigh) passed away due to natural causes.  He was elected in 2012 and served on the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  Earlier, on September 1, former Rep. Bud George (D-Clearfield) died.  He served the citizens of his district in the General Assembly from 1974-2012.

UPCOMING…a program on Farmland Leasing and Land Opportunities will take place September 22 at the Chester County Economic Development Center.  Details: PA FarmLink 717-705-2121, www.pafarmlink.org

MEDIA RELEASE: PSCFO URGES HOUSE ACTION ON AGRICULTURE BUDGETS

PA STATE COUNCIL of FARM ORGANIZATIONS         MEDIA RELEASE August 21, 2017      

26 North 9th Street, Lemoyne, PA 17043

Contact:  Vince Phillips 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com      

The Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) urges the PA House of Representatives to take action on legislation which would allow already approved funds to go to agricultural programs at Pennsylvania State University and money going to the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

According to PSCFO which represents almost seventy agricultural and commodity groups, this legislation is called “non-preferred” and enables funding to some of PA’s universities.  Monies for Penn State School of Agricultural Sciences (agriculture research and extension programs) were already approved during the State Budget process which resulted in spending levels for state programs in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017.  The “non-preferred” legislation enables this already approved money to go to those programs.  In addition, Penn State faces another problem in that federal matching funds cannot flow to the College of Agricultural Sciences until PA General Assembly passes this enabling legislation. The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine will lose $30 million in state funding if “non-preferred” legislation is not passed.

“We ask that the House consider voting for these “non-preferred” bills separately from the divisive revenue-related issues now causing the budget impasse” said PSCFO President Jeff Nogan.

AG ONE Newsletter August 21, 2017

PSCFO BOARD SEEKS RENEWAL OF AG FUNDING

On August 16, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) Board met at AG Progress Days to discuss Harrisburg’s State Budget impasse.  While not getting into various revenue options, PSCFO will be urging legislators to pass the so-called “non-preferred” bills which supply funding to institutions of higher learning.  These enable Ag funding for two agricultural programs, the ones at Penn State (Land Scrip Fund – extension and agriculture research) and the University of Pennsylvania (Vet School).  Penn State’s School of Agricultural Sciences is additionally hampered because federal funds to the school cannot be released until funding enabling legislation is passed by the General Assembly.  On August 12, PSCFO sent out an advisory to Council members detailing the situation and urging action.

WOLF TOUTS ADMINISTRATION SUPPORT OF AGRICULTURE

In an address to a capacity crowd at AG Progress Days, Governor Tom Wolf called PA Agriculture one of the Commonwealth’s most important economic and environmental resources.  In the speech, he said that since 2015, PA Department of Agriculture operational funding has been increased by 23%, that two million additional dollars were allocated for avian influenza planning and response, and that farmland preservation funding had increased by 45% compared to fiscal year 2014-15.  In addition, three million dollars were allocated to distribute fresh farm products to the needy through PA’s food banks.  The Governor charted an ambitious 10-year strategic plan for PA Agriculture including increasing PA’s competitiveness and developing a workforce to meet PA’s future needs.

FARMLAND PRESERVATION UPDATE

On August 11, the PA Department of Agriculture announced that it added 33 farms in 12 counties to the roster of 5,169 farms in 59 counties preserved for future agricultural production.

REGULATORY UPDATES

  • PA Wine Marketing & Research Program Board grant applications deadline are due to PA Department of Agriculture Bureau of Market Development ATT: Agricultural Commodity Board Grant Program, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17011 by September 1, 2017.
  • Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cancelled the August 24 meeting of the Agricultural Advisory Board.  The next meeting is scheduled for October 26, 2017.
  • DEP announced that the annual Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report which was submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is available. (Water Quality Division 717-787-9637 or RA-WQAssessments@pa.gov )  This report documents PA’s water quality management programs per the federal Clean Water Act.  The report also identifies “impaired” waters even after appropriate pollution control technology has been applied to point sources and best practices are in place for nonpoint sources.
  • On August 11, the PA Department of Agriculture August 11 identified 21 additional municipalities in Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton Counties to be quarantined due to the presence of the invasive insect, Spotted Lanternfly.  Parts of Chester County were previously quarantined.

NATIVE AMERICAN AG SCHOLARSHIPS …The First Nation Development Institute is now accepting applications for five $1,000 scholarships to Native American college students majoring in agriculture and related fields such as agribusiness, agriscience, animal husbandry, horticulture, irrigation, food safety, etc.  Deadline for applications is September 28, 2017.  Details: www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship .

SCHOLARSHIPS 2017-18 AND BEYOND

It is not too early to look at scholarships for the 2018-19 college year.  Just updated, www.scholarships.com  has a list of at least 100 agriculture-specific scholarships.  Some are state-specific but many should be considered as active leads for any current student or enrolling student.  Details:  https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-major/agriculture-scholarships/

PENNSYLVANIA’S COLLEGE AGRICULTURE PROGRAMS

In addition to the Big Three (Penn State University, Delaware Valley University and University of Pennsylvania), there are other Pennsylvania colleges and universities offering agricultural studies. (www.american-school-search.com/colleges/agriculture/pennsylvania )

  • Temple University has three agriculture majors: Chatham University (Pittsburgh) has two majors as does Pennsylvania College of Technology (Williamsport)
  • Degree programs: Wilson College (Chambersburg), Arcadia University (Glenside)
  • Associate degrees: Bidwell Training Center (Pittsburgh) and Harcum College (Bryn Mawr). A specialized program is offered by PA Institute of Taxidermy (Ebensburg)
  • Community and regional colleges: Westmoreland County Community College (Youngwood), Schuylkill Technology Center (Frackville), Harrisburg Area Community College, Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Lancaster County Career and Technology Center (Willow Street)

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.

House Consumer Affairs Committee Hearing on Digesters

The House Consumer Affairs Committee scheduled a September 2 hearing in Harrisburg on House
Bill 1349 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster), a bill concerning net metering and use of anaerobic
digesters. This is a reaction to the Public Utility Commission’s attempt to limit the amount of
electricity generated via anaerobic digesters. Its’ companion in the Senate is Senate Bill 844
(Vogel-R-Beaver), now in the Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee.

Politics

Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican nomination for Attorney General. He joins Senator John Rafferty (R-Montgomery).

After resigning July 22 as Governor Wolf’s Chief of Staff, Katie McGinty is running for the Democratic nomination for US Senate. If she wins the primary against former US Rep. Joe Sestak, she will face off against incumbent Republican Pat Toomey.

Special election results: There were special House elections held August 4 in Cumberland and Delaware Counties and August 11 in Philadelphia. The net outcome was a gain of one seat for Democrats although Republicans still have a sizable majority.
– Cumberland County (succeeding Republican Glen Grell) Greg Rothman (R)
– Delaware County (succeeding Republican Joe Hackett ) Leanne Krueger-Branekey (D)
– Philadelphia (succeeding Democrat Michelle Brownlee) Donna Bullock (D)
– Philadelphia (succeeding Democrat Ron Waters) Joanne McClinton (D)
– Philadelphia (succeeding Democrat John Sabatina) Ed Neilson (D)

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.

Session Days Announced for 2015

The Pennsylvania General Assembly posted its schedule for the first half of 2015.

Month             Senate Session Days                          ______House Session Days

January            6, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28                                        same

February          2, 3, 4, 23, 24, 25                                            same plus 9, 10, 11

March              2, 3, 4                                                              same plus 9, 10, 30, 31

April                13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22                                      same plus April 1

May                 4, 5, 6,11,12,13                                               same

June                 1,2,3,8,9,10,15,16,17,18,22,23,24,25,26,29,30  same

2014 Election Results Special

ballot boxHARRISBURG – Democrat York businessman Tom Wolf easily defeated incumbent Tom Corbett 54.8% to 45.2% (1,892,193 to 1,559,954 votes) while Republicans strengthened their control over both Senate and House in Tuesday’s mid-term election.  Senate Republicans will have a ratio of 30 Republicans to 20 Democrats while the House GOP will have at least a 33-vote cushion.

Key to Republican Election Strength

One key to Republicans’ new Senate strength were victories in southeastern Pennsylvania despite it being a region where voter sentiment has leaned more Democratic and liberal in recent years.  Vote margins for southeast Republican incumbents were: Stewart Greenleaf (Montgomery) 63.6% ; John Rafferty (Montgomery) 61.4%; Robert Mensch (Montgomery) 59.9%; Chuck McIlhinney (Bucks) 58.7%, Tommy Tomlinson (Bucks) 61.8%.

Open Seats

Open Republican seats also went to the GOP.  One Democratic seat in Allegheny County was moved to Monroe County via redistricting (Senator Jim Ferlo-D-Allegheny retired) and was picked by the GOP.  The closest race in the southeast was the open Chester County seat vacated by Senator Edwin Erickson (R-Chester) who retired. He is succeeded by Republican Tom McGarrigle who won with a 52% to 48% margin.

Election Turnovers

Two turnovers occurred in traditionally Democratic southwestern PA which has been tending more conservatively Republican in recent years. An open seat formerly held by Democrat Richard Kasunic in Fayette County was taken by Republican Patrick Stefano 57.3% to 42.7% (36,197 to 26,935 votes) over current Rep. Deberah Kula who had sought the higher office. GOP Senate turnover win number two came with the loss of Washington County incumbent Democrat Tim Solobay to Republican Camera Bartolotta 53.6% to 46.7% (35,820 to 31,436 votes).

GOP Adds to Majority

The House GOP added to its majority by adding at least seven new seats to Republican ranks. The new ratio will be either 119 Republicans to 84 Democrats or 118 Republicans to 85 Democrats depending on final tallies.

Legislative Vacancies to Note (and Appreciate)

Legislative VacanciesHARRISBURG – The election created a number of legislative vacancies in key agricultural posts. Among these is Fayette County’s Rep. Deberah Kula who did not prevail in her drive to succeed retired Senator Richard Kasunic (D-Fayette).  Kula served on both the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee and House Appropriations Committee and championed funding for agricultural research and restoration of the state premium subsidy program for Crop Insurance.

Also not returning is agriculture stalwart Senator Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster), former chair of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee who did not seek re-election.  Add Senator Bob Robbins, member of the Ag Committee as one who served but is retiring.  On the Democratic side, Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee member Tim Solobay (D-Washington) was defeated.

Vacancies on the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee include Republican (running as a Democrat after losing his primary) Mike Fleck (Huntingdon), Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster) who lost in a primary contest to succeed Senator Brubaker, Kula, mentioned above, and Michelle Brooks (R-Mercer) who won the open seat being vacated by retiring Senator Bob Robbins.

When the new session begins, there will be considerable committee shuffling on the House side because of the number of House committee chairs that are open due to retirements:  Transportation, Environmental Resources & Energy, Education, Labor & Industry, and Tourism & Recreational Development.

Movement from House to Senate

Several representatives will take office as newly elected Senators.  As mentioned above, Michelle Brooks (R-Mercer) fills Bob Robbins’ seat in northwest PA.  Rep. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) assumes office in Monroe County’s new Senate district.  Rep. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) fills the vacancy created with Senator Brubaker’s decision to retire.

« Older Entries