AG ONE Newsletter June 26, 2020

Dear Reader:

As the following article states, there have been leadership changes in the PA House of Representatives following former Speaker Turzai’s resignation.  This new leadership certainly helps to keep Agriculture as a visible priority.  Speaker Cutler is from Lancaster County.  Majority Leader Benninghoff is from Centre County while Majority Whip Oberlander represents Clarion/Forest/Armstrong Counties. Ag Committee Chair Marty Causer is the new Majority Policy Committee Chair. If you would like to congratulate Rep. Causer, his email is mcauser@pahousegop.com.

Sincerely, Vince Phillips    ******************************************

AG CHAIR ASSUMES NEW LEADERSHIP ROLE

PA House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Marty Causer (R-Cameron/Potter/McKean) was elected to the position of Majority (Republican) Policy Committee Chair as part of leadership selections following the resignation of former Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) on June 15.  The Policy Committee convenes regional hearings on topics of interest to legislators and taxpayers. Causer succeeds Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) in that position.  Other leadership changes include:

  • Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) is the new Speaker of the House.
  • Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre) was elected Majority Leader, succeeding Rep. Cutler.
  • Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) was elected as Majority Whip, succeeding Rep. Benninghoff.

These leaders will serve until the end of this legislative session in November.  Then, they may choose to run for re-election in the session of 2021-22.

ASSISTANCE FOR DAIRY FARMERS

Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers adversely impacted by COVID-19 mitigation efforts can now apply for a share of $40 million in funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Any dairy farm that experienced financial losses due to discarded or displaced milk during the COVID-19 emergency disaster has until Sept. 30 to apply for assistance. The funding includes:

$15 million in direct relief payments.
$5 million to reimburse dairy farmers who participate in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) program by donating excess dairy product.
$15 million for the State Food Purchase Program, which provides cash grants to counties for the purchase and distribution of food to low-income individuals.
$5 million to reimburse the agriculture industry for costs involved in harvesting, processing, packaging and transporting food that they donate.  Click here for more information.

BROADBAND BILLS MOVE

On June 22, the Senate Communications & Technology Committee favorably reported bills advancing access to high-speed Broadband.  Two of them, House Bill 2438 (Owlett-R-Bradford/Tioga/Potter) and Senate Bill 1118 (Pittman-R-Indiana/Armstrong), would make it easier for rural electric cooperatives to use existing electrical lines to provide Broadband.  The third bill, Senate Bill 835 (Langerholc-R-Cambria/Clearfield/Bedford), establishes the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program which would be managed by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Not acted upon at the committee meeting was House Bill 2348 sponsored by Rep. Marty Causer (R-McKean/Potter/Cameron).  It would redirect monies from a tax credit fund into a Broadband matching grant program.  It passed the PA House 202-0 on June 10.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • Ensuring distribution of Fair Fund dollars to County Fairs (Senate Bill 1182 sponsored by Senator Michele Brooks (R-Mercer/Erie/Warren/Crawford) was reported out by the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on June 23.  The committee also reported out: Senate Bill 881 (Martin-R-Lancaster) to allow access to public farm preservation funds by land trusts; House Bill 441 (Sonney-R-Erie) to allow preserved farms of 50-plus acres to grant a right of way to install a wind power generation system; and House Bill 2435 (Kosierowski-D-Lackawanna) to assist food processing plants by providing reimbursement for the purchase of personal protection gear (coronavirus).
  • Senate Bill 1030 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) was signed into law as Act 34 of 2020.  It reaffirms the ability to install specialized septic systems called ‘alternate systems.
  • House Bill 102 (Maloney-R-Berks) was signed into law as Act 27 of 2020.  It allows access to after-hour schools for hunting education.
  • Presented to the Governor for his signature on June 24 was House Bill 1118 (Wentling-R-Lawrence/Mercer/Crawford/Erie) to remove restrictions on the use of thermal and night vision equipment for hunting.

CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS      

  • August’s big agricultural event, AG Progress Days, is cancelled (coronavirus).
  • The next meeting of the Penn State Ag Council will take place on October 15, 2020.  Details: Geremy Kephart 814-863-2822.
  • National All-American Dairy Show that was scheduled to begin September 12, 2020, has been cancelled.  The 2021 dates are September 18-21.  Details: aads@pa.gov.
  • The 2020 Maryland Commodity Classic on July 23 will no longer be a person to person event.  Details on this Virtual event: MD Grain Producers Association 443-262-8491; Lindsay.mdag@gmail.com.
  • The PA Friends of Agriculture Foundation’s Educators’ Ag Institute is offering five free online workshops starting July 9.  These will help educators incorporate agriculture into their curriculum.  Emphasis will be on specific lessons and tools they can use in their classroom.  Educators who attend all sessions can earn up to twenty Act 48 credits.  Details: Charlene Espenshade, cmespenshade@pfb.com.  This replaces the in-person Ag Institute workshops that were cancelled due to the coronavirus.

 

PSCFO AG DIRECTORY REMINDER Some quantities are available free of charge to PSCFO members.  Details: xenobun@aol.com.

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