Pechart Recognized, Huber Re-elected

pechart_bioPSCFO Recognizes Pechart

PSCFO’s June Council meeting recognized former PDA official Michael Pechart who served under Governors of both parties for eleven years and who retired from PDA earlier this year to take a private sector position. He was a huge resource for PDA and for the entire Agricultural Community.

Huber Re-Elected to PSU Board

In addition, Immediate Past PSCFO President Betsy Huber was re-elected to the
huberPenn State Board of Trustees. Congrats Betsy!

It’s High Noon Budget Time

budget paIt’s crunch time to enact the State Budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. It’s all about money since revenue projections for this year were not met, $108 million short in May for example.

Governor’s Budget Cuts Many Ag Areas

Agriculture has a huge stake in the outcome given numbers of specific line items not included in Governor Corbett’s original proposal: PA Preferred, Centers for Dairy and Beef Excellence, agricultural research funding in the PDA budget – adequate funding for Penn State’s Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Research is another important issue.

PDA Cuts Not Restored

The initial vehicle for the Budget is House Bill 2328 (Adolph-R-Delaware) which was reported out of the House Appropriations Committee June 9 and re-referred to the House Rules Committee June 11. It reinstates many of the proposed Agriculture cuts but does not include the Governor’s request for an increase in PDA’s General Government Operations budget. Senate vehicle is Senate Bill 1431.

General Assembly Resumes in June

Pa-capitol-300x250The PA General Assembly is readying itself for the June state budget gauntlet where a balanced budget must be signed into law per the constitutional deadline of June 30. To see Governor Corbett’s original proposal for agricultural spending, please refer to the Pa. Budget Office website. PA Department of Agriculture’s budget proposal begins at E8.1 (on page 387). The Farm Show budget is found at C5.1 (page 167). Click here to view PDA’s budget.

Funding for General Government Operations would increase from $22.7 million in available funds now to a proposed $24.738 million for FY 2014-15. This increase does not mean expanded programs. Rather, much of it will go towards meeting increased employee benefits (health insurance) costs.

However, the Corbett budget proposal eliminates funding for numerous successful programs including PA Preferred, the Centers of Agricultural Excellence, Agricultural Research, Agricultural Promotion, Education & Exports, Hardwoods Research & Promotion, Animal Health Commission, Livestock Show, Open Dairy Show, etc.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Corbett budget proposal (as with former Governor Rendell) treats these zeroed out line items as negotiating items with the General Assembly. It does not mean that agricultural advocates can rest because budgets have been restored in the past. Each budget year requires renewed advocacy so that those line items are not overlooked. The Farm Show Fund anticipates $415,000 in fees and licensing income, $4 million from the PA Race Horse Development Fund and Farm Show leasing income of $6.155 million.

Farmers Market Coupons Begin June 1

Farmers marketAccording to a PDA, WIC recipients and low-income senior citizens can again receive assistance to purchase fresh PA fruits and vegetables through PDA’s Bureau of Food Distribution Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

Beginning June 1, qualified recipients can sign up to receive $20 in vouchers to purchase fresh products from approved farmers. Details: 800.468.2433.

Regulatory Update for April 2014

• On April 12, the PDA published rules under the Food Safety Act and Food
Employee Certification Act to regulate the certifications of food employees. In
the process, outside government comments were received from the PA Catholic
Conference and PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Details:
http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol44/44-15/762.html

• PDA published a proposed Rule that would allow it to contract with other
agencies or vendors to administer pesticide applicators’ examinations in addition
to the monthly PDA exams. These outside entities would be able to charge a fee
for this service. The proposed Rule has been sent to the House and Senate
Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees for review.

The Day/Week/Month Is:

  • The PA House April 9 passed two environmental resolutions. House Resolution 764 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) recognized April 25 as Arbor Day promoting the value of trees to the environment.
  • House Resolution 765 (Miller-R-York) encourages Pennsylvanians to observe the 44th Earth Day on April 22.
  • April 13-19 was Rural Road Safety Week
  • PDA announced that April is invasive pest month and the April 11 PDA Newsletter provided a USDA link, http://hungrypests.com/

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.

Three Key Opportunities to Provide Input

  • First is March 17 at PDA. It is a listening session and features Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials to explain the agency’s thinking on the preventative controls for animal feed and a forum to discuss the Rule and its impact on businesses. Details: March 17 at 12:30 p.m. in Room 309, 2301 North Cameron Street in Harrisburg. RSVPs go to 717-787-3418, jabiery@pa.gov You may view the proposed animal feed rule at www.fda.gov by searching “FSMA proposed rules”. Last year, both PSCFO and PDA submitted comments criticizing the FDA Rule’s regulatory burden on farmers.
  • Second event is March 21, the Secretary’s quarterly conference call with PSCFO Council members. This allows PSCFO members to better understand PDA programs, projects, and priorities. It also provides an opportunity to communicate with top policy officials. Details: March 21 at 1:00 p.m. Call 1-855-750-1027 and use PIN number: 073088.
  • The third is the PSCFO Council meeting March 31 at the State Capitol where you will be able to interact with both legislators and PDA officials. If you have not yet RSVPd, please do so.

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.
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