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.

AG ONE Newsletter May 17, 2017

REDDING TAKES AIM AT HOUSE BILL 218

At a May 10 hearing of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding warned legislators that the House Republican State Budget bill (House Bill 218) could endanger a number of core PDA functions:

  • A $2 million cut from what Governor Wolf proposed in February
  • Losing 21 positions in areas such as restaurant health and safety inspections
  • $407,000 less for the Nutrient Management Fund, leaving the fund in a deficit position by mid-2019
  • Conservation district cuts ($130,000 from PDA and $376,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection budget) could force districts to cut positions and services.

Secretary Redding also sent a letter to the General Assembly stating much of what was in his May 10 testimony, a link to which follows: http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Pages/Letter-to-Legislature.aspx

REAL ID PROGRESSING

On May 10, Senate Bill 133 (Ward-R-Westmoreland) was referred to the House Appropriations Committee after a contentious session of the House State Government Committee which amended the bill along party lines May 8.  This legislation brings PA into compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005, a Federal law requiring an upgrade to state systems of personal identification.  If PA does not comply with legislation in June, the consequence is that a driver’s license will NOT be accepted as identification on boarding commercial flights or providing access to Federal offices (Social Security, Farm Services Agency, military bases, etc.) in 2018.  The issue was an amendment in the House State Government Committee creating a two-tier system which allows Pennsylvanians to keep and use current ID if they choose.  Anyone going for the upgrade would have to pay for it, cost unknown.

POLLINATOR ISSUES SUBJECT OF STATE FORUM

On May 22, the Joint Legislative Conservation Committee will hold an Environmental Issues Forum in Harrisburg to profile Pennsylvania’s bee decline and its impact on agriculture.  For example, PA fruit crops depend on pollination with over 90% of the apple crop relying on honeybees.  The session will also look at ways to reverse the bees’ decline.  Details: Mike Nerozzi 717-787-7570, mnerozzi@jcc.legis.state.pa.us

OTHER LEGISLATION OF INTEREST

  • Fair Dealership Act legislation was introduced by Rep. Will Tallman (R-Cumberland/Adams).  House Bill 1348 is the top priority of PSCFO member Northeast Equipment Dealers Association.  The group argues that the bill is necessary to ensure accessibility to equipment options for agriculture producers.  On May 14, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations wrote to House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Majority Chair Martin Causer (R-McKean/Potter/Cameron) and Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) asking for prompt committee consideration of the legislation.
  • New Senator John DiSanto’s (R-Dauphin/Perry) first major legislation was reported out by the Senate Rules Committee May 8.  Senate Bill 561 gives the General Assembly veto power over any regulation with an economic impact to the Commonwealth, its’ units of government, or the private sector exceeding one million dollars.  The legislative language suggests that Notices in the PA Bulletin, a less formal way to implementing policies, would not be governed by this bill.  Often, an agency will use Notices to inform as to its policy or change in policy.

GAME COMMISSION PROPOSES RULES

On May 13, the PA Game Commission published several proposed rules in the May 13 PA Bulletin, the links to which follow: Hunting and trapping; general ; Lands and buildings—special wildlife management areas; hunting and furtaker licenses—antlerless deer licenses ; Special permits; deer control

APPLE GROWERS ADOPT APPLE PROGRAM

Announced by the PA Department of Agriculture May 6 were results from an April referendum as to whether PA should reinstitute its Apple Program. The vote was 103 producers for and 48 against with six ballots ruled ineligible.  Link to the text of the Program Order follows: http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol47/47-18/770.html

FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in TAMAQUA JUNE 1st

In conjunction with Schuylkill County’s legislative delegation and with financial support from the PA Department of Agriculture, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations is offering a no-cost seminar on Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance to produce farmers in the region. Held June 1 in Tamaqua, It will cover elements of a farm risk management plan which includes food safety, Crop Insurance, and information on what to ask an insurance agent to make sure that farmers’ insurance needs are met.  Details: 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com. Thanks to PSCFO members such as PA Vegetable Growers Association, PA State Grange, PA Association of Conservation Districts, PennAG Industries Association, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, and others for helping spread the word.   Also, PSCFO member PA Farmers Union is planning FSMA compliance webinars.  Details: www.pafarmersnion.org

AG ONE Newsletter May 4, 2017

STATE COUNCIL SELECTS LEADERSHIP

At its Annual Meeting in Harrisburg, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) selected its new leadership for 2017-18.

Officers
President                               Jeff Nogan (PA Cattlemen), previously Vice President
Vice President                        Gregg Robertson (PLNA), previously Secretary/Treasurer
Secretary/Treasurer               Tim Wentz (Northeast Equipment Dealers), previously Board
Immediate Past President       Eugene Richard (PA Mushroom Farmers), previous President

Board
Heidi Secord (Farmers Union), re-elected
Brenda Shambaugh (PACD), re-elected
Jennifer Heltzel (Dairy Farmers of America), new to Board
Steve Case (PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture), new

USDA ISSUES SCHOOL LUNCH CHANGE

On May 1, 2017, new USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a Proclamation mandating changes in the school lunch programs.  Citing that “schools have worked diligently to overcome operational challenges in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs”, he addressed flexibility in meeting sodium requirements, allowing waivers to school districts in trying to achieve whole-grain goals, and giving school districts the option of serving one-percent fat flavored milk.  As Secretary Perdue said “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition.”

PSCFO MEMBERS ADDRESS FEDERAL BUDGET CUTS

Four PSCFO members, PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture, PA Farmers Union, PA Association of Conservation Districts, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation, wrote the chairs of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees April 5 urging restoration of conservation funds cut in the Budget proposed by the Trump Administration.  Among the specifics were calls to reject proposed cuts in NCRS field staff and to provide at least $865 million in “critical discretionary funding for Conservation Operations, including Conservation Technical Assistance.”

LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

  • On April 26, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported out two bills:
  • House Bill 187 (Sonney-R-Erie) amends the Agriculture Area Security Law to provide for wind power easements on protected (preserved) farmland.
  • House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) updates the Noxious Weed Control Law and re-names it as the Controlled Weed and Noxious Weed Act. A link to Rep. Pashinski’s summary follows.  He serves as Minority Chair of the committee.  A Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 567, was introduced by Senator Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill).  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20170&cosponId=22746
  • On April 25, the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee reported out Senate Bill 144 (Yaw-R-Lycoming).  This would require DEP consideration of alternate technologies when an onlot septic system is installed.  Although opposed by DEP, SB 144 was passed unanimously by the committee. It is a major priority of PSCFO member PA Septage Management Association.

HEARINGS

The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee plans a hearing May 10 in Harrisburg to discuss the 2017-18 State Budget for the PA Department of Agriculture with Secretary Russell Redding.  On May 3, Redding sent a letter to various agricultural groups warning that House-passed House Bill 218 would hurt PDA’s ability to complete its regulatory responsibilities.  On May 10, the House Transportation Committee will convene a hearing on Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to levy a per-person tax on rural municipalities who rely on PA State Police for law enforcement in lieu of having their own police force.  Proponents argue that these State Police services should be paid for by the communities which use State Police as primary law enforcement.  Opponents suggest that many smaller communities simply cannot afford this cost, leading to insufficient protection for citizens.

MORE SCHOLARSHIP/AWARD OPPORTUNITIES

  • The PA Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation and PA Dairymens’ Association offer ten scholarships.  Eligibility includes being a PA resident enrolled in certain agricultural fields of study with an intention to work in the dairy industry.  Details: Mary Foote 717-346-0849, mfoote@centerfordairyexcellence.org.  Deadline is June 1.
  • National Corn Growers Association offers The Fields of Corn Photo Contest geared toward photos of field corn (Not sweet) from seed to harvest.  There are 25 cash prizes including a $500 grand prize. Details: http://www.fields-of-corn.com. Entries are due Nov. 1, 2017

FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in TAMAQUA JUNE 1st

In conjunction with Schuylkill County’s legislative delegation and with financial support from the PA Department of Agriculture, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations is offering a no-cost seminar on Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance to produce farmers in the region.  Held June 1 in Tamaqua, It will cover elements of a farm risk management plan which includes food safety, Crop Insurance, and information on what to ask an insurance agent to make sure that farmers’ insurance needs are met.  Details: 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com.

Also, PSCFO member PA Farmers Union is planning FSMA compliance webinars: www.pafarmersnion.org

AG ONE Newsletter April 6, 2017

HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET ADVANCES TO SENATE

By a 114-84 vote April 4, the PA House voted to send the Republican-crafted State Budget Bill to the PA Senate.  There were four Republicans voting no on House Bill 218: Representatives DiGirolamo (Bucks), McGinnis (Blair), Harper (Montgomery), and Hennessey (Chester).  No Democrats voted for HB 218.  Following is a comparison between the present fiscal year, what Governor Wolf originally proposed in February, and what House Bill 218 seeks to do.

PA Department of Agriculture

Budget Line Item                                FY 2016-17        Governor                  House Bill 218

General Government Operations          29.379 million   31.612 million           29,557 million

Centers for Excellence                        1.21 million       0                                1.029 million

Food Market Coupons                         2.079 million     2.079 million             2.079 million

Ag Research                                      1.687 million     0                                0

Ag Promotion, Education, Exports       250,000             0                                0

Hardwoods Research & Promotion      385,000             0                                328,000

Livestock Show                                 195,000             0                                0

Open Dairy Show                              195,000             0                                0

Youth Shows                                     154.000             154,000                     131,000

Food Purchases                                 19.188 million  19.188 million            19.188 million

Transfer Nutrient Fund                       2.714 million     2.714 million             2.307 million

Transfer Conservation Districts           869,000             869,000                     739,000

Land Scrip (PSU Ag Research/Ext.)     51.813 million   51.813 million           51.813 million

PA Preferred                                      605,000             605,000                     514,000

UPenn Vet School                              30.135 million   0                                0

Department of Environmental Protection budget in HB 218 includes $2.13 million transferred to the Conservation District Fund and $2.423 million for Chesapeake Bay Agriculture Source Management.

COMING UP

  • On April 17, there will be a joint hearing of three House committees (Human Services, Aging & Older Adult Services, and Health) on Governor Wolf’s proposed consolidation of four separate Cabinet departments into one Department of Health & Human Services.  There has already been strong backlash from Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) who led a well-attended rally April 5 of supporters of the PA Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs.  Dept. of Aging advocates have also weighed in, fearing a dilution of the Commonwealth’s commitment to seniors if the Aging Dept. is absorbed.
  • On May 3, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, on issues related to the forest products industry.
  • On May 10 in Harrisburg, the same committee will hear from PDA Secretary Russell Redding on budget and other priorities of the PA Department of Agriculture.

APPLE MARKETING ORDER

On April 4, the Agriculture Department issued a release stating that PA apple growers may vote on the “Pennsylvania Apple Program”.  This replaces the terminated PA Apple Marketing Program.  Eligible growers are those with 500-plus apple trees.  The proposed program has a grower assessment of five cents per bushel with an estimated $200,000 – $250,000 in revenue which would be used to fund U.S. Apple Association membership, apple research, consumer education, and program administration.  PDA must receive ballots by April 21. Details: www.pennsylvaniaapples.org/about/board-staff

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • Sunday Falconry Hunting (Senate Bill 123 (Scavello-R-Monroe) passed the Senate 47-0.
  • Structures used in maple sugar operations would be exempted from building requirements of the Universal Construction Code (UCC) per House Bill 177 which passed the House 196-0.

USDA NASS SEEKS AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION HELP

The National Agricultural Statistics Service issued a plea for agricultural groups to actively partner with NASS in urging farmers to participate in the 2017 Census of Agriculture, a survey that will be forthcoming in December of this year.  Even though the request comes early, Regional Director King Whetstone says that support in promoting the Census is critical to its success.  He notes that the Census is taken every five years and provides a basis for various Federal program resources and activities to be apportioned.  It also provides base yield data to help farmers receive an accurate Crop Insurance payment should a claim be filed.  Details: 717-787-3904, www.agcensus.usda.gov

NASS ISSUES PLANTING FORECASTS

On April 3, NASS issued prospective planting numbers for Pennsylvania.  It projects a three-percent increase in soybeans from last year, 18% increase for barley, five-percent increase for winter wheat, seven-percent increase for hay, and no change in planted acres for oats.  Decreased acreage is forecast for corn (down two percent) and tobacco (down one percent).

POLITICAL NOTE…

Phila. Democrat Emilio Vazguez won a special election in the 197th district.

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.

Hearing Held on Rural Telephone Access

On August 24, the House Consumer Affairs Committee convened a hearing on House Bill 1417 (Major-R-Susquehanna and Hanna-D-Clinton), continuing PA funding for the Universal Service Fund (USF) until December 31, 2021 and requiring provision of basic landline service as a condition for telecommunications companies to receive any USF monies. According to Rep. Major, in 2011, the Federal Communications Commission dramatically altered the USF system away from basic rural telephone service to expansion of broadband. With the Federal shift, the PA Universal Service Fund is the only remaining support mechanism to ensure that rates for basic services in rural areas closely mirror those in non-rural areas.

Other Senate Committee Agriculture Bill Updates

  • Senate Bill 720 sponsored by Aument (R-Lancaster) has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  It would provide protection from civil liability for owners and operators of agritainment activities. Agritainment is defined as “tourism-related, recreational or educational activities located on farms in Pennsylvania such as corn mazes, pick-your-own crop harvests, hay rides and farm vacations.”  Because many activities involved in the agritainment business are frequently not covered by customary farm liability policies, farmers face a number of challenges in securing adequate coverage and face liability risks when opening up their land to the public.
  • Inheritance Tax exemption for family farm estate plans resulting in the transfer of a farm to family members is the substance of Senate Bill 580 (Gordner-R-Columbia) as a “clarification of Act 85” according to the sponsorship memo.  SB 580 was reported out by the Senate Finance Committee and re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • Without passage of Senate Bill 756 (Schwank-D-Berks) or similar legislation, First Industries which provides loan guarantees for farm credit institutions will sunset July 15, 2015.  SB 756 is in the Senate Community & Economic Development Committee.

US House Passes Bills of Iinterest to Agriculture

Kubota_L3200 300x250On February 13, the US House of Representatives passed HR 636 by a vote of 272-142, a bill that makes permanent after 2014 the $500,000 allowance for the expensing of depreciable business property (section 179 property and the $2 million threshold after which the amount of such allowance is reduced. Both allowance and threshold amount are indexed for inflation for taxable years beginning after 2015. The taxpayer is allowed to revoke an election to expense section 179 property without first obtaining consent from the Department of the Treasury. There is one PA sponsor of the bill, Republican Rep. Ryan Costello from southeastern PA.

On Feb. 12, by a vote of 279-137, the US House passed HR 644 which includes the text of HR 641 sponsored by northwest PA Republican Rep. Mike Kelly providing a permanent tax incentive for farmers and ranchers to preserve non-developed land for future conservation.  National affiliates of PSCFO members (AFBF and NACD) support the legislation.

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

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