AG ONE Newsletter October 10, 2018

Dear Reader:

Under what conditions should farmers apply biosolids or should they at all is the main topic to be discussed at the PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) November 19 meeting at PDA.   Studies have found biosolid application to be beneficial but opponents say that the treated waste (aka sewage sludge) is not treated sufficiently and poses an environmental health hazard.  Add to that pushback from some communities and legislators who believe that municipalities should have a veto power. Right to Farm (ACRE) also enters the fray, making this a very interesting and stimulating meeting.  There will also be program updates from the PA Department of Agriculture and political updates following the November election.  Sincerely, Vince Phillips

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OCTOBER IS CRUNCH TIME

The PA House and the Senate are finishing work for the 2017-18 legislative session.  Thus far, neither House nor Senate has expressed a desire to reconvene for a ‘lame-duck’ session after the election although a day is scheduled in November for clean-up.  Taking up much of the session will be farewell speeches by retiring members of the General Assembly.

NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT BILL MAY RUN OUT OF TIME

An unusual 12-8 partisan vote was taken October 1 in the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on reporting out an amended Senate Bill 1171 (Brooks).  .  Since the bill was amended in the House, there may simply not be enough time for the House to pass it and the Senate to concur with House amendments given that next week is the last week for legislative action.

HUMANE SOCIETY POLICE BILL IS LAW

Signed into law by Governor Wolf on October 2 is Act 77 of 2018 (House Bill 1917 sponsored by Rep. Frank Ryan-R-Lebanon).  It increases initial training hours and mandates training in proper procedures when issuing citations.  There must be training on PA’s animal cruelty laws, “animal husbandry practices constituting normal agricultural operations, practices accepted in the agricultural industry in the raising, keeping and production of agricultural animals,” and “characteristics of agricultural animals likely evidencing care that is in violation of the cruelty to animals laws.”   Following is a link to the new law.

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=1917&pn=2815

ACTION ITEMS

  • House Bill 1346 sponsored by Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong/Indiana/Butler) was presented to the Governor October 2.  It bans drone flying over restricted areas (correctional institutions) and where there is an intentional invasion of privacy.
  • Senate Resolution 457 sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) recognizing the Women of the Grange was adopted by the Senate on October 3.
  • Sponsored by Senator Michele Brooks-R- Mercer/Crawford/Warren/Erie), Senate Resolution 418 urges the U.S. Congress and USDA to include milk in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.  It was reported out by the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee October 2.  Also reported out by the committee was Senate Resolution 421 sponsored by Senator Sharif Street (D-Phila.) urging the U.S. Congress to remove commercial industrial hemp from the Schedule 1 Controlled Substance list.
  • Sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), Senate Bill 1237 establishes the Rural Health Redesign Center, a public-private partnership to help rural hospitals upgrade care and address solvency issues.  It will be funded by a Federal $25 million grant.  It passed the Senate on October 3.

PUC BEGINS PROCESS TO REGULATE BROADBAND POLE ATTACHMENTS

On September 29, 2018, the PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) initiated a process to remove Federal Communications Commission (FCC) jurisdiction over pole attachments used to expand Broadband.  The PUC seeks to have ‘reverse pre-emption’ authority to have more streamlined pole attachments in Pennsylvania.  The rationale follows:

The Commission believes that asserting state jurisdiction over pole attachments at this time will assist policymakers in their efforts to expand access to both wireline and wireless broadband services for all Commonwealth residents, businesses, schools, hospitals—particularly in rural areas of the Commonwealth.

The Notice of Rulemaking states that there will be no fiscal impact on PA State Government. Interested parties have until October 29 to comment.  Written comments go to Secretary, Public Utility Commission, PO Box 3265, Harrisburg, PA 17105.  Email contacts are Shaun A. Sparks at shsparks@pa.gov and Colin W. Scott at colinscott@pa.gov.

REGULATORY UPDATES

  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) approved two PA Department of Agriculture regulations concerning PDA Regulation #2-185, Vegetable Marketing and Research Program and PDA Regulation #2-187 regarding Weighmasters.
  • The PA Department of Agriculture issued a Notice spelling out General Quarantine rules throughout PA for animals afflicted with rabies.  It went into effect October 6, 2018.  https://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol48/48-40/1558.html

RESOLUTIONS…

House Resolution 1074 sponsored by Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Allegheny) was adopted by the House September 25 proclaiming October as “Wines, Wineries, and Grapes Month”.

On September 24, the House adopted House Resolution 1010 sponsored by Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, (D-York) designating August 2018 as “Pennsylvania Produce Month”.

AG ONE Newsletter September 3, 2018

FEDERAL FARMER TARIFF AID PROGRAM BEGINS SEPTEMBER 4

The Trump Administration $12 billion program to assist farmers who are being adversely affected by the ongoing trade disputes and retaliatory tariffs begins September 4, 2018.

The Market Facilitation Program (MFP) will provide direct payments to PA farmers producing soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, dairy, and hogs.  Its purpose is to allow farmers the flexibility over the timing of marketing their products and to help farmers adjust to disrupted markets.  Capped at $125,000 per agricultural producer, payment rates are:

  • Dairy: 12 cents per hundredweight (cwt) – Hogs: $8.00 per head
  • Soybeans: $1.65/bushel                                – Corn:  one cent/bushel
  • Wheat: 14 cents/bushel                                 – Sorghum: 86 cents/bushel

Payment equals 2018 actual production times 50% times payment rate. There must be a crop acreage report on file with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the farmer must be actively involved in farming except for hogs and dairy.  Dairy production is based on historical product reported for MPP-Dairy and dairy operations must have been in operation on June 1, 2018.  Hog payments are based on the number of live hogs as of August 1, 2018.  There may be a second payment period to be determined.

HOW TO APPLY

Farmers must have had an adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 in tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016.  Market Facilitation payments are capped at $125,000 per person or legal entity.  This program is being administered by FSA with application form at www.farmers.gov/mfp Sept. 4.  Contact: Becca Csutoras, FSA Program Chief for PA, 717-237-2117

There are two additional elements to the Market Facilitation Program.  First is a massive commodities $1.2 billion purchase by USDA Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) based on an economic analysis of harms to U.S. producers from retaliatory tariffs.  Examples are Dairy $84.9 million, apples $93.4 million, potatoes $44.5 million, and pork $558.8 million.

Second is a $200 million program administered by USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS).  The Agricultural Trade Promotion provides assistance to eligible farm groups who are participating in trade shows/consumer marketing/point of sale demonstrations, etc.  Applications for this program will be accepted until November 2, 2018 or until funding is exhausted with funds allocated in early 2019.  NOTE: This program includes a wider range of products including fish and forest products.

UPCOMING

  • The House Finance Committee is holding a hearing on House Bill 2329 (Hahn-R-Northampton) providing for a 100% property tax exclusion for farmsteads.
  • The House Professional Licensure Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 780 (Elder-R-Beaver) setting standards for Telemedicine –of particular value in rural areas.
  • A Beginning Farmer Workshop organized by Farm Link will be offered September 14 in Lancaster.  Details: Michelle Kirk 717-705-2121
  • National Farm Safety and Health Week is September 16-22.
  • The same week is the National Septic Smart Week whose purpose is to remind property owners of the importance on onlot septic system maintenance.
  • On October 1, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is convening a hearing on House Bill 2293 sponsored by committee Chair Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter).  This bill builds a firewall around monies received by the state for Broadband development.

PDA OPEN FOR AG RESEARCH PROPOSALS

Posted In PA Bulletin (www.pabulletin.com) August 25 was guidance from the PA Department of Agriculture on the types of research projects being considered in the current state fiscal year.

Research targets include: multi-year funding for previously approved projects; Spotted Lanternfly; Powdery mildew in hops; alternative uses for fluid milk; support for Dairy research and development; “blockchain technology in agricultural food systems”; identifying gaps in agricultural infrastructure systems; economic impact of Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load; Chesapeake Bay voluntary conservation efforts: hemp’s market potential; workforce development; hydroponics and aquaponics; urban agriculture; and Pollinator Protection Plan.

Apply to PA Department of Agriculture, Research Solicitation Review Committee, Room 211, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110.  Application deadline is September 28, 2018

REGULATORY UPDATES

  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) is holding a September 13 public meeting to consider two PA Department of Agriculture regulations, 2-185, Vegetable Marketing and Research Program and 2-187 Weighmasters.
  • The PA Fish and Boat Commission has released six proposed regulations for public view.  Details: https://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol48/48-35/index.html
  • August 28 concluded the comment period for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of Environmental Justice proposal which mandates Environmental Justice Areas public hearings for so-called “Trigger” permits such as CAFO and biosolid.
Draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy (012-0501-002) Policy   8/28/2018 View comments

AG ONE Newsletter August 8, 2018

AG PROGRESS DAYS GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES

August 15 includes a number of government affairs activities at AG Progress Days. First is a joint hearing convened by the Senate and House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees August 15 to hear testimony from major farm groups on issues of importance to them.  Expect a focus on PA’s dairy industry, Broadband access, and sustainability issues.  Information: Kerry Golden kgolden@pahousegop.com and Destiny Zeiders dzeiders@pahouse.net. Other meetings are:

  • The annual Government and Industry Luncheon (tickets required). Details: Corinna Fisher 814-863-2822, fisher@pasu.edu. Another governmental meeting will be the
  • U.S. Rep. ‘G.T.’ Thompson has an afternoon meeting to discuss the 2018 Farm Bill.  As voce-chair of the House Agriculture Committee, he is the only person from the Mid-Atlantic States from either party to serve on the Farm Bill Conference Committee.
  • On August 16, DEP’s Agricultural Advisory Board will convene.  Details: DEP’s Jay Braund 717-772-5636.

PA LEGISLATOR GETS NATIONAL NOD

PA Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) was named to the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which will give advice on telecommunications issues to that agency.  She is the only Pennsylvanian on this particular committee and is known for her bipartisan work (with Rep. Pam Snyder-D-Fayette/Greene/Washington) on a package of bills seeking to expand access to Broadband to rural areas.

RESOURCES FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS

  • AUGUST 6, 2018 Application period for Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) begins.  REAP provides tax credits to farmers, landowners, and businesses for implementing practices which increase efficiency while protecting natural resources.  REAP is a first-come, first-serve program.  Details: 717-705-4032 https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/StateConservationCommission/REAP/Pages/default.aspx
  • Food Safety Compliance: The PA Department of Agriculture is offering free on-farm readiness reviews to informally review areas of compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  FSMA Rules apply to farmers with produce operations above a certain threshold.  Details: 717-787-4315

 REGULATORY AGENDAS RELEASED

Each year, the Governor’s Office lists those regulations being considered by each government agency.  The full list is published in the PA Bulletin issue for August 4: www.pabulletin.com

The PA Agriculture Department (PDA) lists six regulations.

  • Agriculture Conservation Easement Purchase Program Regulations (#2-192) proposed September 2018; Regulatory contact is Douglas Wolfgang 717-783-3167
  • PA Preferred Program Regulations proposed September 2018; Regulatory contact is Laura England 717-783-8462
  • PA Vegetable Marketing Program (#2-185) October 2018 as a final rule; Regulatory contact is Bill Troxell 717-694-3596
  • Milk Sanitation (#2-191) regulation will allow PA raw milk/cheese producers to produce unpasteurized milk/cheese where there is a Federal identity for that cheese and the standard of identity allows for production of standardized cheese from raw milk proposed for September 2018; Regulatory contact is Lydia Johnson 717-787-4315 NOTE: This was posted in the August 4 PA Bulletin.

The two other PDA regulations are Rabies Prevention and Control (#2-188) and Weights and Measures (#2-187).

PennDOT has several.

  • Oversize and Overweight Loads and Vehicles (Automated Permit Routing Analysis System proposed Summer 2018; Regulatory contacts are Glenn Rowe PE 717-783-6479 and Jeffrey Spotts 717-787-5299
  • Hazardous Material Transportation Summer 2018 as final; Contacts are Rowe and Spotts
  • Hauling in Excess of Posted Weight Limits proposed Fall 2018; Contacts are Spotts and Halley Cole, PE 717-783-6146
  • Access to and Occupancy of Highways by Driveways and Local Roads. There are two. The first is meant to be a clarification of some parts of the application process – final in Summer 2018.  The second is meant as a major re-write of Chapter 441 (67 Pa. Code) to include comments received redefining the term “owner” (“legally cognizable ownership interests”).  Regulatory contacts for both are Spotts and Richard Roman, PE 717-6899.

The non-regulatory agenda for the PA Department of Environmental Protection was issued in July. The Agenda is available on the Department’s eLibrary web site at http://www.elibrary.dep.state.pa.us/dsweb/View/Collection-11958  (select ”Publications,” then ”Office of Policy,” then ”Non-Regulatory Agenda”).  Questions regarding the Agenda should be directed to Abbey Cadden, Technical Guidance Coordinator, Department of Environmental Protection, Policy Office, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101 at (717) 783-8727 or ra-epthepolicyoffice@pa.gov .

COMMEMORATIVES

AG ONE Newsletter June 29, 2018

FARMLAND PROTECTION BILL SIGNED INTO LAW

On June 24, Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 2468 into law as Act 45 of 2018.  This legislation restricts school districts and townships from seizing preserved farmland without justifying (no other available options) the acquisition before the county’s Orphan’s Court.  HB 2468 addresses two separate school district actions in Cumberland and Montgomery Counties.  The bill was sponsored by Representatives Warren Kampf, Marcy Toepel, and Kate Harper, all Montgomery County Republicans.

AGRI-TOURISM BILLS MOVE

Sponsored by Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), bills limiting liability for farmers engaged in agri-tourism or agri-entertainment are continuing their movement in the PA General Assembly.  Senate Bill 819 which defines agri-tourism passed the Senate June 18 by a 48-0 vote and was referred to the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee June 20.  Companion Senate Bill 820 which provides limited liability immunity was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is on the Senate’s calendar.

HOUSE ADOPTS PENNVEST AUDIT RESOLUTION

On June 22, the PA House adopted House Resolution 948 calling upon State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to audit records of the PA Infrastructure Investment Authority, also known as PENNVEST, as they relate to nonpoint source program projects.  According to prime sponsor Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), “many questions have been raised about transactions in which PENNVEST financed the purchase of 60,000 acres of private forest land in north central and northwestern PA.”

SENATE APPROVES NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT BILL

The Senate voted 49-0 on June 20 for Senate Bill 1171 (Brooks-R-Mercer/Crawford/Erie/Warren) to create the Farm Animal Advisory Board as a replacement for the Nutrient Management Advisory Board so as to provide greater input by animal farmers in the regulatory process concerning nutrient compliance rules.

SELECTED LEGISLATIVE ITEMS

  • Approved by the Senate 48-0 on June 18 were two members of the PA Milk Marketing Board, Robert Barley and Carol Hardbarger.  Barley was also appointed to USDA’s National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board by Secretary Sonny Perdue on June 19.
  • Signed into law as Act 43 of 2018 by Governor Wolf on June 22 was House Bill 2477 (Watson-R-Bucks) furthering research in medical marijuana.
  • Adopted by the PA House was House Resolution 971 proclaiming “Pollinator Week” in PA (Matzie D-Allegheny/Beaver).  Adopted by the Senate was Senate Resolution 403 (Aument-R-Lancaster) declaring June as “Dairy Month” in PA.

DAIRY RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY SENATE

Another piece of legislation sponsored by Senator Aument was adopted by the PA Senate June 18.  Senate Resolution 382 calls upon the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to prevent labeling products billing themselves as “milk” from using that term unless they are true dairy.  This would include products such as soy, almond, and most recently peas from marketing with the term “milk” when they are not dairy products.

The second resolution adopted June 18 is Senate Resolution 384 sponsored by Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Minority Chair, Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  SR 384 directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to identify and examine the statutes, best practices and proposed measures of other States to provide assistance to dairy producers during these economic times. The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee will also identify the number and types of specialty dairy products, such as lactose free milk, that are sold in the Commonwealth by out of state dairy producers and examine how milk produced in the Commonwealth can be utilized to meet the increased demand for this specialty dairy products market.”  (Source:  Sen. Schwank’s sponsorship memo)

AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION REPORT RELEASED

The Wolf Administration released an agriculture workforce development educational program report in June as a result of collaboration between the PA Departments of Agriculture and Education.  Details:  http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Documents/Agriculture%20Education%20Report.pdf

DEADLINES

  • July 6, 2018 is the deadline for the Department of Environmental Protection to receive online applications for private companies “repowering” trucks and other equipment.  The PA Clean Diesel Grant Program received part of the national $118 million Federal settlement with Volkswagon.  Details: Samantha Harmon at DEP, 717-787-9495; www.dep.pa.gov/driveforward
  • July 20, 2018 is the date by which farmers should file actual acreage reports for Crop Insurance.  Another Crop Insurance date to remember is July 31st, the enrollment deadline for forage seeding protection.  Details: Jordan Stasyszyn at PDA, 717-787-6901
  • October 12, 2018 is the deadline for corn producers, grain handling facilities, or ethanol production facilities to enter into the Settlement Agreement with Syngenta over lawsuits alleging that marketing a GMO seed disrupted U.S. corn market prices.  Details and a scam warning: www.cornseedsettlement.com; 833-567-2676.

AG ONE Newsletter June 25, 2018 Budget Edition

PA HAS A STATE BUDGET

Governor Wolf signed House Bill 2121 (Saylor-R-York) into law on June 22.  At $36.158 billion, the State Budget goes into effect July 1, 2018. The major spending increase was $100 million more for K-12 education.  A link to House Bill 2121 follows.  Actual language starts on page 194.  Pages 194-211 describe various Funds and the actual appropriations amounts begin on page 211.

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2017&sInd=0&body=H&type=B&bn=2121&utm_source=Listrak&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=http%3a%2f%2fwww.legis.state.pa.us%2fcfdocs%2fbillInfo%2fbillInfo.cfm%3fsYear%3d2017%26sInd%3d0%26body%3dH%26type%3dB%26bn%3d2121&utm_campaign=House+Approves+Budget+with+No+New+or+Increased+Taxes

BUDGET BY LINE ITEM

General Fund Line Item       Original Wolf Proposal        Final HB 2121           Change

Agriculture Dept.                  33.407 million                         31.791 million             -1.6 million

Note: This is still an increase over the current fiscal year’s 30.784 million

Spotted Lanternfly                  0                                              3 million plus Federal dollars

Centers for Ag Excellence      0                                              1.331 million, (same as current FY)

Farmers Market Coupons       2.079 million                           same plus Federal dollars

Ag Research (not PSU)          0                                              2.187 (500 million over current FY)

Ag Promotion                         0                                              303,000 (same as current FY)

Hardwoods                             0                                              424,000 (same as current FY)

Livestock Show                      0                                              215,000 (same as current FY)

Open Dairy Show                   0                                              215,000 (same as current FY)

Youth Shows                          169,000                                   same                            same

State Food Purchases              19.188 million                         19,688 million             +500,000

Note: Food purchases for food banks (PASS) increased from 1.0 million to 1.5 million

Food Marketing                      0                                              494,000 (same as current FY)

Transfer to Nutrient Mgemt.   2.714 million                           same                            same

Transfer to Cons. District       869,000                                   same                            same

Scrip Fund (Penn State & Ext). 52.313 million                      53.882 million             +1.6 million

PA Preferred                           605,000                                   same                            same

UPenn Vet                              30.135 million                         31.039 million             +904,000

UPenn Infectious Disease       281,000                                   289,000                       +8,000

DCNR                                     22.063 million                         same                            same

Parks/Forest Infrastructure     0                                              2.5 million       (0 in current FY)

Education Dept.                    26.143 million                         25.971 million             -172,000

Note: Program funding K-12 increased $100 million; Community Colleges increased by million; Regional Community College (think Northern Tier) increased by 253,000

Penn State (non-ag)                 252.510 million                       260.085 million           +7.575 million

Pitt/Temple/Lincoln                309.232 million                       318.5 million               +9.27 million

State System H. Ed.                468.108 million                       same    Current FY is 453.108 million

 

Pitt Rural Education               2.763 million                           2.846 million               +83,000

DEP                                        14.378 million                         same    Current FY is 13.309 million

Envir. Programs                      30.932 million                         same    Current FY is 29.413 million

Ches. Bay Ag Abatement       2.670 million                           same    Current FY is 2.535 million

Ches. Bay Commission           275,000                                   same                            same

Envir. Protection Ops             93.901 million                         93.190 million             -711,000

Transfer to Cons. Dist.           2.506 million                           same                            same

Legislature

Center for Rural PA                1.072  million                          1.104 million               +32,000

Other Items (non- General Fund) House Bill 2121 (State Budget for FY 2018-19)

Motor Vehicle Fund

  • Dirt & Gravel (DCNR) 0 million
  • Dust & Sediment Forest Roads (DCNR) 0 million
  • Appalachian Regional Commission 750,000
  • County Roads & Bridges (PennDOT) 0 million
  • Rural Commercial Routes (PennDOT) 0 million

Note:  Some of this is dedicated to upgrade highway technology and potentially Broadband access.

Racing Development Fund

  • County Fairs 0 million
  • County Fairs Administration 207,000
  • Farm Show 0 million
  • Animal Health Commission 35 million
  • PA Vet Labs 309 million
  • Horse Racing Promotion 393 million
  • Equine Toxicology & Research 025 million
  • State Racing Commission 466 million

Milk Marketing Board Fund                                               2.84 million

AG ONE Newsletter May 28, 2018

SENATE COMMITTEE MOVES TWO AG BILLS

On May 22, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported two bills.  Senate Bill 1171 (Brooks-R-Mercer/Warren/Erie/Crawford) replaces the Nutrient Management Advisory Board with a new Farm Animal Advisory Board.  Its purpose is to give animal farm operators greater input into environmental regulations. The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee also moved Senate Bill 819 (Aument-R-Lancaster).  This bill and companion Senate Bill 820 provide limited immunity from legal action for farmers engaged in agri-tourism.  SB 820 may be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in early June.

HOUSE VOTES FOR 102 INCH TRAILER WIDTH

On May 24, the PA House voted 171-4 for legislation changing the standard width of truck trailers from eight feet (96 inches) to 8.5 feet (102 inches).  The rationale for Senate Bill 880 (Langerholc-R-Cambria/Bedford/Clearfield) is that the PA standard was set in 1976 and that the newer manufacturing U.S. standard is 102 inches.  PennDOT and municipalities will still have the authority to limit truck trailer sizes on specific roadways where a wider width poses a hazard.

STATUS CHECK ON BROADBAND LEGISLATION

  • House Resolution 431 to audit a Dept. of Education Broadband Fund– Adopted
  • House Resolution 429 to establish a legislative task force to focus on Broadband access — Reported out of House State Government Committee
  • House Bill 1642 to require a state inventory of structures that could be used to expand Broadband — House calendar
  • House Resolution 430 to determine if non-rural phone companies are complying with existing law regarding providing access and House Bill 2320 to increase the state minimum for Broadband access– House Consumer Affairs Committee
  • House Bill 2293 to prevent “raiding” of dedicated Broadband access monies for other purposes — House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
  • Senate Bill 740 to preserve land line telephone service to rural PA– Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee

DCNR CONVENES FOREST PLAN HEARINGS

The PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) is convening hearings on the State Forest Resource Management Plan.  The first two are May 31 at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven and June 13 at the Elk Forest District office in Emporium, PA.  Information:  http://www.dcnr.pa.govPaForester@pa.gov

VOCATIONAL BILLS SEE LEGISLATIVE ACTION

A vocational education bill, House Bill 2205 (Roebuck-D-Phila.), passed the House 191-0 on May 23.  It allows establishment of employer advisory committees at the Intermediate Unit level to ensure that industry standards are incorporated in instructional programming.  This was a recommendation of the House Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness.

Senate Bill 1104 (Aument-R-Lancaster) passed the Senate 48-1 on May 24.  It loosens the 78-hour credit requirements for Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers since they have industry experience.  It is now before the House Education Committee.

A package of Career and Technical Education bills was referred to the Senate Education Committee May 18:   House Bill 2155 reforms CTE teacher requirements by emphasizing work experience.  House Bill 2156 provides tax credits to businesses investing in CTE.  House Bill 2157 attempts to speed up classifications of instructional programs including agriculture.

COMING UP…

  • June 5The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is holding a public hearing on Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin).  The bill addresses fertilizer labeling requirements.
  • June 6:  Joint Legislative Budget & Finance Committee releases a report on the feasibility of establishing a water user fee in PA and also an interim report of the Northern PA Regional College which the General Assembly established to provide a community college option for the Northern Tier.
  • June 11:  House State Government is holding a hearing on the Delaware River Basin Commission regulation to ban fracking in parts of northeast PA.  In addition to being a forum on the good or ills associated with Marcellus Shale natural gas development, there may be discussion as to whether the Commission has the regulatory authority to overrule state law Act 13 which regulates fracking in all of PA.  Of particular interest to some in the Agriculture Community is whether the Commission will at some time decide to restrict DEP-permitted biosolid application despite PA law protecting normal agriculture activities.
  • June 11:  PSCFO Board and Council meeting in room 309 at PDA
  • June 14:  House Game & Fisheries Committee hearing on chronic wasting disease.

 CORRECTION:  The post-primary issue of AG ONE did not include parts of Berks County as being in the 9th congressional district contest pitting dairy farmer and former PA Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff against former State Treasurer Dan Meuser. The district includes all or parts of Lebanon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Luzerne, and Carbon Counties AND Berks County.

AG ONE Newsletter May 21, 2018

DENNIS WOLFF WINS NOMINATION FOR U.S. REP.

Dairy farmer and former PA Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff won a contested Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 9th congressional district.  He will square off against former State Treasurer Republican Dan Meuser.  The district includes all or parts of Lebanon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Luzerne, and Carbon Counties.  This is an open seat held by Rep. Lou Barletta who won the Republican nomination to face off against incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Casey.  Casey holds a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

OWLETT WINS HOUSE SPECIAL ELECTION

Farmer turned manufacturer Republican Clint Owlett won the special election to succeed Rep. Matt Baker (R-Potter/Tioga/Bradford) who resigned his seat in the PA House to take a position in the Trump Administration.  Owlett has a dairy farming background, helped run the family farmers’ market and is now in the construction business.  The seat stays Republican.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER TWO SPECIAL ELECTIONS?

  • Democrats were able to take the seat held by Republican Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks) who left his House seat to head the Philadelphia Parking Authority.  Winner of the special election was Helen Tai, a township supervisor who owns a business consulting firm.  She is a Penn State Master Gardener.
  • The third special election was a break-through moment for Washington County Republicans when GOP candidate Tim O’Neal won 54.7% of the vote in this historically Democratic district.  He succeeds former Democratic Rep. Brandon Neuman who won a judicial election. Neal is a construction firm executive who also has energy industry experience.

WHICH CANDIDATES HAVE AGRICULTURAL BACKGROUNDS?

In addition to those cited above, there were several candidates in contested primaries with agricultural backgrounds.

  • Republican candidate for Governor Scott Wagner grew up on a farm.
  • Current Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair) faces organic farmer and farmers’ cooperative manager Emily Best for an open Blair/Fulton County Senate seat.  (John Eichelberger’s seat.)
  • Incumbent Mark Gillen (R-Berks)’s opponent, Democrat Douglas Metcalfe, grew up on a farm and is now a nonprofit manager and school board member.
  • PA’s Perry County has two farmers running against each other.  Incumbent Republican and House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee member and Majority Chair of the House Urban Affairs Committee Mark Keller is opposed by Democrat Karen Anderson.
  • Republican Jonathan Hershey (Juniata/Mifflin/Franklin) grew up with farming and his family’s farm equipment operation.  He worked for U.S. Rep. Charles Dent on Ag issues.
  • Republican Barb Gleim (Cumberland) earned an MBA from Delaware Valley University in Food & Agribusiness.  She also farms and raises cattle.  (Rep. Steve Bloom’s seat)

HOW DID MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AGRICULTURE & RURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE DO?

Unlike the House where all members run for election every two years, the Senate has elections for one-half of its members every two years.  Neither Majority Chair Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) or Minority Chair Judy Schwank (D-Berks) are up for election.  Seeking re-election this fall and running unopposed in their respective primaries are:

  • Republican member Michelle Brooks (R-Erie/Crawford/Mercer/Warren) who is opposed by Democrat nurse Sue Ann Mulvey.
  • Republican member Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) who faces Democrat electrician William Troutman, Jr. in the fall.
  • Democratic member John Blake (D-Luzerne/Lackawanna) against Republican Frank Scavo, an aftermarket auto parts distributor general manager.

HOW DID MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE AGRICULTURE & RURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE DO?

All House members are elected every two years.  Majority Chair Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) was unopposed in the primary and has no opposition in November.  Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) was unopposed in his Democratic primary but has an opponent for the fall, Republican grocery product selector Gregory Wolovich.

  • Member Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland) did not run for re-election to his House seat due to his campaign for Congress.
  • Member Kevin Haggerty (D-Lackawanna) did not run for re-election.  Contenders for that district are Democratic Capitol Hill staffer (for Senator Blake) Kyle Mullins vs. Republican industrial salesperson Earnest Lemoncello.
  • Member Emilio Vazquez (D-Phila.) fell in the Democratic primary to grocery store owner Danilo Burgos.
  • Several committee members were unopposed in the primary or won their primary and do not have fall opponents:  Representatives Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill), Sid Kavulich (D-Lackawanna), David Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Morgan Cephus (D-Phila.), Karen Boback (R-Luzerne/Lackawanna/Wyoming), Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon), Jordan Harris (D-Phila.), Christopher Rabb (D-Phila.), and Austin Davis (D-Allegheny).

AG ONE Newsletter May 8, 2018

BROADBAND CAUCUS ESTABLISHED IN HOUSE

Rural Broadband access champions Representatives Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington) have formed a caucus to urge adoption of Broadband legislation.  They have already introduced a package of bills addressing lack of access in rural areas:  House Resolution 431 calling for an audit of a special Broadband fund administered by the PA Department of Education; House Resolution 429 establishing a legislative task force on delivery of high-speed Broadband services; House Resolution 430 which directs the State Government Commission and the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to see if non-rural telephone companies are meeting their legal obligations in providing access to Internet services to rural residents; and House Bill 1642 which directs that there be an inventory of state-owned structures that could also be used to expand access.

In addition, on May 3, House Bill 2320 sponsored by Rep. Snyder was referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.  HB 2320 would increase the state requirement for band width ten-fold to match the Federal standard as set forth in the Connect America initiative.

HOUSE PASSES CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION PACKAGE

On April 30, a bipartisan group of nine bills was approved by the House to boost Career and Technical Education (CTE):  House Bill 2155 reforms CTE teacher requirements by emphasizing work experience.  House Bill 2156 provides tax credits to businesses investing in CTE.  House Bill 2157 attempts to speed up classifications of instructional programs including agriculture.

Of note is House Bill 2203 sponsored by Rep. Pat Harkin (D-Erie) to have the PA Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Labor & Industry work jointly to develop an online career resource center.

REGULATORY REFORM LEGISLATION TAKES CENTER STAGE IN HOUSE

The House voted for bills to provide greater legislative control over PA’s regulatory system.

  • House Bill 1960 (Ellis-R-Butler) requires that each agency appoint a regulatory compliance officer, enabling the regulated community to better understand regulations and provide them with an informal way to resolve noncompliance issues before penalties.
  • House Bill 1792 (Benninghoff-R-Centre) gives the General Assembly the power to void existing regulation providing both House and Senate pass it and the Governor signs it.  Once a regulation is voided, an agency may not re-issue the same regulation unless specifically authorized by a new law.  A legislative committee may report a concurrent resolution to initiate repeal of an existing regulation after a public hearing is held.
  • House Bill 1237 (Keefer-R-York) mandates that a proposed regulation with an impact of one million dollars or more per year on business have a concurrence vote by the General Assembly, thus giving legislators veto power over economically significant regulations.
  • House Bill 209 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) establishes an independent Office of the Repealer.  That position’s duty is to review existing regulations and recommend repeal if they are obsolete or “if it finds the existing regulation(s) to be contrary to the public interest.”
  • House Bill 1959 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) requires all agencies that issue permits to increase transparency through the permitting process.

COMMITTEE VOTES TO ADDRESS HUNTER TRESPASS PROBLEM

On May 1st, the House Game & Fisheries Committee voted for House Bill 1603 (B. Miller-Lancaster) to make hunting while trespassing on private property a primary offense.  This changes current law which says that trespassing can only be charged if there is another violation of the Game Code.  Penalty is losing one’s hunting license for up to one year.

OTHER LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS

  • A bill to amend the Vehicle Code to increase the standard truck trailer width from 96 to 102 inches (House Bill 1699 sponsored by Rep. Jim Marshall-R-Beaver) is now in the Senate Transportation Committee after passage by the PA House.
  • House Bill 2034, (Marshall) is now in the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee after 195-0 House passage.  It provides for agricultural liming materials labeling.
  • On May 1st, the House approved House Bill 1800 (Nelson-R-Westmoreland) for pharmacists to provide and insurers to pay for partial prescriptions in order to synchronize fill or refill dates.  This would reduce the numbers of people (rural elderly for example) who do not take their medications due to difficulties in getting to a pharmacy.

 

UPCOMING

  • May 20:  The PA Milk Marketing Board will hold a hearing on if and how the Milk Marketing Law should be changed.  Details: ra-pmmb@pa.gov
  • June 5:  The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will convene a hearing on Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin).  This legislation is a major re-write of rules regarding fertilizer.  It includes registration, labeling, and inspections as well as citing penalties for misbranding, adulteration, or actual weight being “shorter” than listed weight.  Following is a link to the actual language as there are also technical listings.  NOTE:  When reading, start on page 68.  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=0792&pn=1547

AG ONE Newsletter April 16, 2018

REDDING’S STATEMENT ON THE FARM BILL: The importance of the federal Farm Bill to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry cannot be overstated,” said Redding. “Farm Bill programs are investments in production agriculture, our environment, our economy and our people. I appreciate the work of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture to get us to this point, including the members of our own delegation who serve on the committee, Congressmen Glenn Thompson and Dwight Evans. Passing a final bill is never an easy task, but we look forward to working with our U.S. representatives and stakeholders to ensure the best interests of our food and agriculture industries, as well as rural Pennsylvania, are considered throughout the process.”  (April 13, 2018)

MULTIPLE FARM GROUPS URGE REAUTHORIZATION OF STRESS PROGRAM

An April 6 letter to the Majority Chairs and Ranking Members (Minority Chairs) of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees urged reauthorization of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) within the Farm Bill.  It makes the point that FRSAN was established by the 2008 Farm Bill but was never funded.  It says that the need is imperative given the prolonged downturn in the farm economy.  Those signing the letter with PA State Council of Farm Organization affiliates were:  American Soybean Association, National Grange, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.

DAIRY ROUNDTABLES SCHEDULED IN APRIL

PA Center for Dairy Excellence is convening a series of roundtables for those involved in dairy production to discuss ways to strengthen the industry.  Scheduled are sessions in Bedford and Grove City April 17, Lancaster April 20, State College and Mansfield April 24.  The purpose is to discuss how the industry has been weakened and how to repair the damage.  Details: Heidi Zimmerman 717-346-0849 hzimmerman@centerfordairyexcellence.org

GOVERNOR HAS HIGH TUNNEL BILL

On April 9, House Bill 1486 was presented to Governor Wolf for his signature.  Sponsored by Rep. Dave Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), HB 1486 would exempt high tunnel agricultural buildings from storm water management requirements as long as that building:

  • Does not have an impervious area exceeding 25%
  • Is located at least 100 feet from any perennial stream, watercourse, public road, or neighboring property line
  • Is located at least 35 feet from any perennial stream, watercourse, public road or neighboring property line and located on land which has a slope not greater than seven percent
  • Has a buffer or diversion system that does not directly drain into a stream

HB 1486 pre-empts any local ordinance differing from the state exemption and the Governor’s action appears imminent.

BROADBAND BILLS GAIN TRACTION

The package of bills introduced by Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Pam Snyder (D-Fayette/Greene/Washington) designed to expand rural access to Broadband is receiving attention by the House.  On April 9, the House Education Committee moved House Resolution 431 urging the Auditor General to conduct an audit of a specialized fund run by the PA Department of Education which facilitates Broadband access.  On April 10, the House State Government Committee voted House Resolution 429 out of committee.  It directs the Joint State Government Commission to establish a Broadband access advisory committee.  On April 17, the House State Government Committee plans to vote on House Bill 1642 mandating the Department of General Services inventory state properties that could be used to expand Broadband availability.

A fourth bill in the Broadband package is House Resolution 430 in the House Consumer Affairs Committee. No date for consideration has been set.  HR 430 directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee and the Joint State Government Commission to jointly conduct an audit and study of nonrural telecommunication company compliance with existing mandates.

DATES AND DEADLINES

  • Those wishing to apply for funding by the PA Wine Marketing & Research Program Board have until April 20 to submit applications.  These should go to: PA Department of Agriculture Bureau of Market Development, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110.  Grant details appeared in the March 24, 2018 PA Bulletin (www.pabulletin.com)
  • Beginning April 9 and ending June 1 is the new sign-up period for the revamped Dairy Margin Protection Program.  Coverage will be retroactive to January 1, 2018.  Applicants must use form CCC-782.  Details: www.fsa.usda.gov/mptool
  • April 26 is the date of the Agricultural Bankers Conference in State College.  Some of the workshops include the Future of Hemp, Cyber Security, Farm Succession and an address by PDA Secretary Russell Redding.  Details: PA Bankers Association, 717-255-6927

 

AG LIME BILL MOVES THROUGH HOUSE

On April 9, the House voted 195-0 to forward House Bill 2034 (Marshall-R-Beaver/Butler) to the Senate where it was referred to the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  Among other things, it specifies labeling requirements (brand name, type of agricultural liming material, net weight, and minimum percentage of calcium oxide, molybdenum percentage, and calcium carbonate).

Dairy’s Future Requires New Ways of Thinking

A Letter from Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding

Like many of you, what is happening now in our dairy industry has me concerned, but I have faith that the strength and enduring spirit of our agriculture industry—especially our dairy sector—will see us through this crisis. As the recent economic impact analysis of Pennsylvania’s agriculture and food industries made clear, there are tremendous opportunities before us, and Pennsylvania’s leaders from Governor Wolf to the General Assembly and the Department of Agriculture are committed to helping dairy farmers affected by this tightening dairy market take full advantage of those opportunities, while helping them to manage in the short run.

I recently testified before the House Agriculture Committee on the current state of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. I was joined by the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Elder Vogel, whose background is in dairy farming, just like mine. During that session and recent budget hearings, I was asked by legislators what could be done to help.  One representative asked if the dairy industry is costing me sleep.

“Yes,” I replied, “it is.” I know the same can be said for many of you.

Like you, I wake up at nights wondering how we got here and what the future holds. We find ourselves in a market where milk prices are increasingly subject to global market forces; where there are limits to what the United States, much less one state like Pennsylvania, can do to balance supply and demand. The trend we’ve seen in Pennsylvania over the last two decades may continue if we lose dairy farmers whose cows go on producing in someone else’s herd, keeping downward pressure on prices while negatively impacting communities, farms, and related industries.

But we are not without hope and reason for optimism.

According to our economic impact analysis, Agriculture accounts for roughly 18 percent of Pennsylvania’s Gross State Product today, with an annual economic impact of $137.5 billion. The report found promising signs for dairy and a separate study of the state’s processing capacity potential was likewise encouraging. The bottom line is that there are opportunities, and that dairy will remain a key part of our agricultural sector for the foreseeable future, although the decisions dairy farmers and the commonwealth face over the next 12 to 18 months will significantly shape its prospects.

Dairy farms across Pennsylvania have a breadth of options and resources at their disposal as they consider their next step. Some of these options include:

The Center for Dairy Excellence for business tools to help manage production costs and optimize herd health;

Ideas for diversifying your operation and income sources or transitioning to organic products where demand is growing, but supply remains inadequate;

Potential financing options beyond traditional lenders;

Direct marketing services, as consumer interest in buying local is at an all-time high; and

Revisiting risk management programs, including the recently reformed Margin Protection Program.

The Department of Agriculture supports the commonwealth’s dairy farmers, and is committed to providing communities with the resources and connections they need to ensure that our dairy industry will thrive in the years to come. To be successful, though, will require new ways of thinking.

Perhaps Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best as the nation was searching for solutions amid the depths of the Great Depression, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Those words of wisdom are particularly apt today as we find ourselves in these challenging times. Many dairy families are wondering how did we get to this point. Again, I say that you’re not alone. There are plenty of good producers out there who are facing the same hardships, the same questions, the same difficult choices you are. We’re at this point because of factors no one individual, organization, or government entity could control alone. It’s been a confluence of factors over nearly 20 years, but now that we’re here, one thing that won’t solve the problem is standing still, holding onto the past rather than planning and acting for the future. We’re committed to being here with you throughout that process.

 

Secretary Russell Redding

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

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