Two Ag-Championed Bills Reach Governor’s Desk

high tunnel billsHigh Tunnels: House Bill 1440 (Boback-R-Luzerne) enacted by the General Assembly. This states that these agricultural buildings are not governed by the Uniform Construction Code. PSCFO and a number of PSCFO Council member organizations such as PA Landscape & Nursery Association and the PA Farm Bureau lobbied for HB 1440’s passage. Status: Sent to Governor Corbett October 14.

Vehicle Code Change: Also sent to the Governor October 14 was House Bill 2092 (M. Keller-R-Perry) amends the PA vehicle code to make PA requirements match those of federal rules regarding “covered farm vehicles” where drivers do not need a commercial driver’s license to operate “covered farm vehicles” anywhere within the state or operated interstate within 150 miles from the farm. The Fiscal Note clarifies that the legislation’s 150 miles are “air miles”, meaning that the actual range is 172.6 miles.

Ag Progress Days Tours Outlined

Ag Progress DaysROCK SPRINGS – An Ag Progress Days staple are the research tours ranging from habitat for deer and other wildlife to management tactics for high yielding soybeans.

Some other tours include woodlot management, stream (riparian) buffers and native prairie grasses, short rotation woody crops for biomass, Penn State’s Deer Research Center; pasture management, American Chestnut Foundation plantings, etc.

In addition, a tour of the High Tunnel Research & Education Facility demonstrates current production systems and horticultural crops that can be produced in high tunnels.  Complete list of tours is found at http://agsci.psu.edu/apd/events/tours

Legislative News – UCC Impact on High Tunnels

Hoop-Houses-at-FairviewWith the State Budget, pension reform and liquor store privatization taking much of the proverbial oxygen out of the room, agricultural issues have not seen much of the spotlight.

UCC Bill Moves Forward

A possible exception: On June 4, the PA Senate approved Senate Bill 1023 (McIlhinney-R-Bucks) by a vote of 47-1 to upgrade the duties of the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council (RAC). The RAC’s function is to issue recommendations for the PA UCC and assess whether changes in International Code are applicable to the Commonwealth.

May Affect HB 1440

An item of possible interest to the Agriculture industry is that recommendations from RAC must meet or exceed Uniform Construction Code provisions currently in effect. An unknown is whether SB 1023 would have an impact on PSCFO-supported legislation (HB 1440) that would remove tunnel buildings from the Uniform Construction Code – would this be seen as weakening the UCC?

General Assembly Returns

After spending a month with appropriations hearings, the General Assembly is back in session. Matters to note:

  • On March 10 the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee amended Senate Bill 1181 (Vogel-R-Beaver) to transfer $4.2 million from the Race Horse Development Fund to the State Racing Fund to provide resources to the PA Racing Commission to perform its regulatory responsibilities.
  • House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Chair John Maher (R-Washington/Allegheny) distributed sponsorship memos to House members regarding a resolution to congratulate Cooperative Extension Service on its 100th anniversary and a second resolution recognizing April 1 as Farm Bureau Day. Status: No resolution numbers yet
  • A House Professional Licensure Committee hearing on licensing of professional soil scientists (House Bill 997 sponsored by Rep. Scott Petri-R-Bucks) has been set for May 7.
  • On February 4, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported out Senate Bill 1149 (Brubaker-R-Lancaster) relating to the application of fertilizer on turf areas (lawns, athletic fields and golf courses). Two other bills reported out by the committee February 4 were: SB 1188 (Vogel-R-Beaver) amending the Race Horse Industry Reform Act and SB 1107 (Alloway-R-Franklin) stating that if a kennel license is revoked, no new kennel licenses will be issued to a person who is a member of the same family nor to any person residing at the address of the current (revoked) licensee.
  • House Bill 1440 (Boback-R-Luzerne) is still on hold in the Senate. It would exempt high tunnel buildings from the Uniform Construction Code.