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!
One topic discussed at the June 16 Council meeting was the threat to PA Agriculture and to the environment by feral hogs. The meeting updated attendees on the issue and paved the way for a more detailed program on the subject September 22 at the Council’s next meeting. Following is a link to USDA’s web site providing background on the feral hog issue. http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/animals/wildboar.shtml
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.
On June 5, the Small Business Administration declared Elk County a disaster area after severe May 21-22 flooding. Filing deadline for physical property damage is August 4, 2014.
Loans of up to $200,000 are available for homeowners and loans of up to $2 million are available for businesses to restore damaged or destroyed buildings, inventory, equipment and assets. Details: 800/659-2955. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center is located in Ridgeway.
PACD-SCC Joint Conference
On July 10 PA Association of Conservation Districts and State Conservation Commission are having a Joint Conference in Blair County. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hunger Free PA
Hunger Free PA will be a recipient of funds generated from the 2d Annual Capitol All-Stars Softball September 23 at Harrisburg’s Metro Park sponsored by PA Cable Network, PA Legislative Service, Quantum Communications and others. Players are all PA legislators. Details: 717/724-3196
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended the comment period for its proposed Clean Water Act rule until October 20, 2014.
Opposed by Ag interests
The proposal was vigorously opposed by some agricultural interests such as the PA Farm Bureau. The issue deals with whether or not a new EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ definition of waters regulated by the Federal Government will impact most farmers.
Farm Bureau Asks Rule to Be Withdrawn
PA Farm Bureau asked that the proposed rule be withdrawn because it would allow “the agencies to regulate land activities around small creeks, streams and even ditches that only hold water during heavy rain events”. An EPA link provides an avenue for someone seeking to submit public comment. http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm
With 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?
On June 6, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted a one-year exemption for livestock haulers to a rule that took effective July 1, 2013 requiring commercial truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of service. In requesting the exemption, the National Pork Producers Council maintained that drivers’ service time includes loading and unloading animals and that mandating a break would affect the animals’ welfare.
USDA announced that nominations may be made for Farm Service Agency county committees starting June 15 and closing August 1, 2014. Details and nomination for FSA-669A: www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. Elections will be held in the fall.