PSCFO 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
Penn State Board of Trustees. Congrats Betsy!
It’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.
The 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.
According 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.
• 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:
• 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.
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.
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.