AG One Newsletter February 25, 2019

GOVERNOR WOLF PRESENTS THE PA FARM BILL

On February 14, the Wolf Administration presented a series of funding enhancements to various agriculture programs.  Dubbed ‘Pennsylvania’s Farm Bill’, these changes are expected to invest more than $24 million in PA Agriculture.  Components include:

  • Ag Business Development and Succession Planning: $2 million to assist farmers in developing a business plan and succession strategy; Realty Transfer Tax exemption for transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer.
  • Animal Sector: $5 million Dairy Investment Program for research, organic transition assistance, value-added processing, etc.; Center for Animal Excellence at $1 million to support the animal agriculture industry including potential establishment of hemp as an approved animal feed; $500,000 to help smaller meat processors by subsidizing Federal meat inspection costs and relevant equipment.
  • Business Climate: $2.5 million for the Conservation Excellence Grant Program; $500,000 to re-establish a low interest loan program to help farmers implement Best Management Practices; Expanding Resource Enhancement & Protection Tax Credits by $3 million; legislation to change transportation requirements; allowing for subdivision of preserved farms (Ag Security Act); and streamline co-op audit reporting requirements.
  • Workforce Development: $500,000 in grants to agricultural and rural youth organizations; $500,000 for PA Farm to School Grant Program.
  • Ag Disaster Response Infrastructure: $5 million for response to agricultural disasters such as Avian Influenza or Spotted Lanternfly or response to food-borne illnesses.
  • Market Expansion: $1.6 million for promotion of organic farming through PA Preferred Program; $1 million additional for PA Preferred; $500,000 for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program; $500,000 to develop and improve the agriculture infrastructure in urban areas.

ADMINISTRATION PRESENTS INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN (Including Broadband)

A second Wolf Administration proposal is the Restore Pennsylvania program which seeks to raise $4.5 billion through a bond issue to be repaid by taxing extraction of natural gas.  This money would help subsidize Broadband expansion to rural areas, assist municipalities with flood and storm water control projects and address such areas as town blight and brownfields clean-up.

The fine print contains a proviso that new Marcellus Gas landowner lease agreements would forbid energy companies from subtracting post-production costs from royalty payments or requiring the landowner to pay the severance tax.  Senate sponsors of legislation will be Senators John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) and Tom Killion (R-Delaware).

Link to the Governor’s announcement:  https://www.governor.pa.gov/governor-wolf-outlines-plan-restore-critical-pennsylvania-infrastructure/

WOTUS COMMENT DEADLINE EXTENDED

April 15, 2019 is the new deadline for persons wishing to comment on the Trump Administration’s proposed re-writing of the definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS).  The proposed changes define the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act in the Federal Register. When commenting, use Docket Number EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149.

The extension on the comment period came in part from a February 12 letter signed by 160 Democratic Members of Congress including four from PA:  Matt Cartwright, Brendan Boyle, Mike Doyle, and Mary Gay Scanlon.

Comments may be submitted electronically through http://www.regulations.gov, by email to OW-Docket@epa.gov or through the U.S. Postal Service to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center, Office of Water Docket, Mail Code 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460

REGULATORY UPDATES

  • On February 23, the PA Department of Agriculture published a notice to peach and nectarine producers that it is almost time to vote on the referendum which takes place every five years on whether or not the marketing campaign should continue. The referendum period extends from March 18 – April 1, 2019.  Those voting must have at least 500 trees.  Results will be released within 30 days after April 9.
  • PA Milk Marketing Board is convening hearings on March 6 and April 3, 2019 at PDA. Among other things, PMMB will receive comments on setting the over-order premium at $1.00 per hundredweight.  Questions: deberly@pa.gov

 

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT SEEN AS HOUSE PRIORITY

On February 19, House Education Committee Chairs Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie) and Rep. Jim Roebuck (D-Phila.) convened a press conference to present a bipartisan package of legislation designed to enhance workforce development in the Commonwealth.  These eight bills will be voted on by the Education Committee on March 11.  Please refer to www.legis.state.pa.us to look up sponsorship memos and bill text for House Bill 265, House Bill 297, House Bill 334, House Bill 393, House Bill 394, House Bill 395, House Bill 396 and House Bill 522. The following links you to the press release describing in brief each of the bills:  http://www.repsonney.com/NewsItem.aspx?NewsID=274906

 

UPCOMING HARRISBURG HEARINGS

  • February 27: PA Game Commission before the House Game & Fisheries Committee.  NOTE:  Sunday hunting topic will likely be raised.
  • March 19: Joint Legislative Conservation Committee will hold a hearing on Bike Tourism initiatives along PA Route 6.
  • The House and Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees will hold a joint hearing on the PA Farm Bill proposal on March 20.

AG ONE Newsletter February 11, 2019

Dear Reader:

On February 5, Governor Tom Wolf presented his proposal for the State Budget beginning July 1, 2019.  Although helpful to Agriculture with level or even increased funding in many areas, there were also cuts that the General Assembly will examine.  Now starts the Appropriations Committee hearings which can be seen on PA Cable Network.  The PA Department of Agriculture hearings are scheduled for March 5 at 10:00 a.m. (House Appropriations Committee) and March 6 at 1:00 p.m. (Senate Appropriations Committee).  Sincerely, Vince Phillips

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BUDGET

Shortly, expect to see a special edition of AG ONE Newsletter which focuses on the 2019-20 State Budget proposal advanced by Governor Wolf

PSCFO NEWS:  LEADERSHIP

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) comprised of 70 agricultural and commodity groups, selected leadership for 2019 at its Annual Meeting in Harrisburg February 5, 2019.  Elected officers are:

  • President Gregg Robertson who represents the PA Landscape & Nursery Association
  • Vice President:  Timothy Wentz, representing the Northeast Equipment Dealers’ Association
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Kurt Fuchs, representing MidAtlantic Farm Credit.

Jeff Nogan, representing PA Cattlemen, automatically becomes Immediate Past President and serves as a member of the PSCFO Executive Committee. In addition, chosen were three members of the Board of Directors.  They are:

  • Eugene Richard, representing Mushroom Farmers of PA
  • Rick Leese, representing the PA Farm Bureau
  • Judy Mohn, representing the PA Cooperative Potato Growers Association

PSCFO NEWS:  DEDICATION TO AGRICULTURE AWARD

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations presented the 2019 PSCFO Dedication to Agriculture Award to cattleman conservationist Jim Cowell, a long-time Farmer in Greene County.  Presenting the Award were PSCFO President Gregg Robertson, PA Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Fayette/Greene/Washington), Katrina Hanna, Chief of Staff for Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Greene/Beaver/Washington), and PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding.  In addition to the PSCFO Dedication to Agriculture Award, Mr. Cowell received congratulatory Citations from the PA State Senate and from the PA House of Representatives. 

PSCFO Dedication to Agriculture Award criteria are based on one or more of the following:

  • Service with a significant economic or social impact on rural Pennsylvania
  • Service affecting PA Agriculture generally  or service making a vital difference in one part of PA Agriculture such as for a specific commodity
  • Unheralded accomplishment with limited public awareness
  • Public Service performed at the local, state, or national level providing a meaningful contribution/benefit to PA Agriculture
  • Service providing a greater awareness of agriculture’s importance to the general public

SUNDAY HUNTING LEGISLATION MOVES THROUGH SENATE COMMITTEE

The Senate Game & Fisheries Committee on February 4 reported out Senate Bill 147 sponsored by Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) to allow Sunday hunting.  The vote was not unanimous, 8 for and 3 against.  Opponents to the legislation include PA Farm Bureau and PA State Grange as well as groups which are concerned about possible injuries to non-hunter recreational users.  Supporting the legislation are the PA Game Commission, sportsman groups, and the National Rifle Association.  SB 147 was amended in committee to include an analysis by the PA Budget and Finance Committee on PA Game Commission fees, fines, penalties, costs, land purchases, etc.

LEGISLATION

  • On February 4, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported out Senate Bill 145 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) amending the Agricultural Area Security Law to allow farmers of protected farmland to voluntarily relinquish their right to construct an additional residence.  This would allow them to minimize their property taxes.
  • Adopted by both House and Senate were Resolutions commending the work of the FFA (House Resolution 45 sponsored by Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry) and Senate Resolution 21 sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver).  Each was adopted by their respective chamber February 4.
  • Adopted by the Senate was Senate Resolution 25 sponsored by Senator Don White (R-Indiana) proclaiming February as PA Mutual Insurance Companies Month.  This was Senator White’s last sponsored legislation before his retirement.  Many of the PA Mutual insurance companies were founded to meet farmers’ insurance needs.

POLITICS:  STATE

  • The Senate will shortly have three vacancies to be filled by special election.  First is the Washington/Allegheny County district held by former Senator Guy Reschenthaler who was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2018.  Others are Senator Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) and Senator Don White (R-Indiana) who close out their Senate careers February 28..
  • The House has two special elections scheduled for May 21, primary day.  They are to fill the seats of former Rep. Vanessa Brown (D-Phila.) who resigned and Sid Kavulich (D-Lackawanna), a member of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, who died shortly before the 2018 election.
  • Although vigorously denying accusations of sexual misconduct and suing the accuser, Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) relinquished his position as Minority Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee as a way to recuse himself from any relevant legislation.

COMING UP…The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will have an informational meeting February 20 to discuss agricultural issues with PDA Secretary Russell Redding.