AG ONE Newsletter October 30, 2017

BUDGET SAGA (FINALLY) ENDS

Update:

Please note the following updates to the AG ONE Newsletter below posted earlier today. These were signed into law today by Governor Tom Wolf:


HB 790
sponsored by House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) (controlled and noxious weeds) is Act 46

HB 542
Tax Code (taxes on fireworks, $1.5 billion loan from Tobacco Settlement, etc.) is now Act 43.

HB 785 Capital Facilities Debt Act (state indebtedness levels) is now Act 45.

HB 674 Fiscal Code (takes $200 million from an insurance company reserves; gives Governor discretion as to where $300 million will come from dedicated funds) is now Act 44

HB 118
(Labor & Industry inspection fees) is now Act 40.

SB 651
Capital Budget (authorization wish list for wide variety of state bricks and mortar projects) is now Act 52.

HB 271 (expands gambling in hopes of generating $200 million more revenue to the state) is now Act 42.

*****

With House action October 25 and 26, the revenue side to the State Budget was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.  He has ten days to approve, veto, or let the legislation go into effect without his signature.  Some major elements include:

  • Borrowing of $1.5 billion from future payments to Pennsylvania from the Tobacco Master Settlement to be paid back within 30 years  NOTE:  House Bill 542, page 271 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0542&pn=2598
  • Taking $200 million from reserves held by the Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), the medical malpractice insurer of last resort.  The Administrative Code bill specifies that if JUA does not hand over the money by December 1st, it will be abolished.  JUA says that it is illegal for the state to “seize” insurance company reserves and that it will sue to prevent this from occurring.  NOTE: House Bill 674, Article II-D, section 201-D  page 14: Similar language is found in House Bill 118 but this specifies that the Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear any challenge. http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0674&pn=2624
  • $200 million to come from gambling expansion (House Bill 271)
  • Senate Bill 651, the Capitol Budget, is a bricks and mortar wish list for projects funded by the Commonwealth.  Just because projects are listed here does not mean that the money is actually there. This is an authorization bill.  Examples for Capital Budget items might be a new barn for the Farm Show complex or significant upgrading to a state building HVAC system.
  • New Labor & Industry inspection fees schedule (boilers, elevators, ski lifts, etc. are found in Administrative Code bill, House Bill 118 starting on page 12.  www.legis.state.pa.us
  • New taxes on fireworks: 12% for consumers buying fireworks; annual fees ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 for permanent structures selling fireworks; and $3,000 per year for temporary structures.  One miscellaneous insurance provision is a $50,000 bond requirement for municipal fireworks displays.  (HB 542 page 257 dealing with new taxes on fireworks)

FARM SHOW LOAN IN LIMBO

In limbo is the Governor’s unilateral decision October 4 to borrow ahead (“securitize”) future profits from the PA Liquor Control Board and his October 9 pronouncement that PA would take out an equity loan on the Farm Show Complex owned by the state.  His rationale was that he would take budget matters into his own hands, absent a legislative resolution to the State Budget impasse. PSCFO has requested a meeting with Governor Wolf to discuss the Farm Show Complex loan issue.

AND…THERE IS A SLEEPER BUDGET ISSUE.

House Bill 674 contains this section:  SECTION 1726-G.FUND TRANSFERS.

DURING THE 2017-2018 FISCAL YEAR, $300,000,000 SHALL BE

TRANSFERRED FROM AMOUNTS AVAILABLE IN SPECIAL FUNDS AND

RESTRICTED ACCOUNTS TO THE GENERAL FUND.

This is the ultimate outcome of those seeking to balance the State Budget by taking monies from over 50 specified dedicated funds.  The Senate derailed that notion but this final language gives the Governor the discretionary authority to decide from which funds this $300 million shall come.  HB 674 does not contain language limiting his choices so they might or might not be  agriculture or environmental funds. PSCFO sent a heads up memo to Council members about this section.

SENATE BANKING & INSURANCE COMMITTEE HOLDS RX PRICE HEARING

On October 23, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee convened a prescription drug price transparency hearing relative to Senate Bill 637 (White-R-Indiana).  It presented starkly contrasting views between the pharmaceutical industry which maintained that manufacturing costs increases are quite reasonable versus insurers and prescription benefit managers (PBMs) which pointed accusing fingers at the drug industry for unwarranted price increases.  Testimony also came from the PA State Grange which said that price transparency could give insurance companies the ability to negotiate more effectively because they could compare pricing practices between states, such as a hypothetical Epi-pen charge of $150 in one state versus $600 in PA.

WEED BILL GOES TO GOVERNOR (No, not that weed…)

Presented to the Governor October 25 was House Bill 790 regarding controlled and noxious weeds.  Prime sponsor is House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne).

EXPECT WORKERS’ COMPENSATION HIKES

The PA Compensation Rating Bureau (PCRB) revised loss cost filing goes into effect November 1st. This translates into a general increase in Workers’ Compensation premiums of 6.06%, necessary to adapt to the Supreme Court striking down a major provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act regarding permanent  impairment evaluation standards.

YOUTH GARDENING GRANTS up to $500 will be awarded by Katie’s Krops.  Eligible are youths aged 9-16.  Harvests must be donated to food banks.  Application deadline is December 31.  Details:  http://www.katieskrops.com/start-a-garden.html House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) passed the Senate 49-0 on October 18 and was referred to the House Rules Committee.  The House now must consider amendments made to the bill in the Senate.

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.

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

PDA Publishes Grant Criteria

PDA Logo - GrantIn the December 6 PA Bulletin, the PA Department of Agriculture published details regarding funding for PA agricultural organizations which conduct agricultural fairs and organizations that contribute to the development of agriculture and agribusinesses as well as eligible agriculture youth groups.  Among those included are horse racing organizations, 4-H, and FFA county organizations.  A link to the Notice follows:

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol44/44-49/2509.html

USDA Rural Development Invites REAP Applications

USDA RD TagUSDA is seeking applications from small businesses and agricultural producers for funding (both loans and grants) to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees. Businesses not involved directly in production agriculture may also apply.

Mentioned in the USDA announcement was a PA veterinary practice in Curryville, Blair County, PA which received a $10,525 REAP grant to install solar panels on his roof. Details: Dawn Bonsell 717-237-2286 or Jay Fletcher 202/690-0498.

USDA Lists Farm Bill Food Project Opportunities

farm-bill-smUSDA May 8 announced that $78 million in Farm Bill resources for local and regional food systems including farmers markets, processing facilities, distribution services and other local food business enterprises is available.

This funding comes from Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program (B&I) and the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program. AMS’ deadline is June 20, 2014.

B&I: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_gar.html

AMS: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/AMSgrants 

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).