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

AG ONE Newsletter March 13, 2018

BUDGET PROCEEDS TO NEXT STAGE

Now that the State Budget hearings have concluded, the next step is initial consideration of a budgetary spending document.  Right now, the vehicle that will be considered by the House initially is House Bill 2121 (Saylor-R-York) which was reported out by the House Appropriations Committee yesterday, March 12.    Following is a link to the text of the 186-page bill:  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=2121&pn=3056  As far as the PA Department Budget, there are changes between what Governor Wolf proposed and House Bill 2121.

Line Item                                                        Governor Wolf                      House Bill 2121

PDA General Government Operations                $33.407 million                       $31.110 million

 Includes Spotted Lanternfly $1.6 million

Fruit & Vegetable Inspection and Grading          $460,000                                 NA

Conservation District Grants                            $2.877 million                         $3.375 million

Centers for Agricultural Excellence                   0                                            $1.331 million

Ag Research (not Penn State)                          0                                              $1.687 million

Ag Promotion, Education, Exports                    0                                              $303,000

Hardwoods Research & Promotion                    0                                              $424,000

Open Livestock Show                                      0                                              $215,000

Open Dairy Show                                           0                                              $215,000

Food Marketing                                              0                                              $494,000

Penn State Extension & Research                    $52.313 million                           same

PA Preferred                                                  $605,500                                  $600,000

Youth Shows                                                  $169,000                                 $169,000

Nutrient Management                                     $2.714 million                           same

Dirt/Gravel Roads                                          $28.0 million                              same

State Food Purchases                                     $19.188 million                         same

 Includes $1.0 million for PASS (Food Banks)                                            

Farmers Market Coupons                               $2.079 million                            same

Fairs (Race Horse Development Fund)             $4.0 million                               same

 

The process is shaping up to be smoother than in each of Governor Wolf’s previous State Budget proposals since, with the exception of a tax on natural gas (severance tax), there are no major taxes being proposed.  NOTE:  HB 2121 is a spending bill.  Tax increases would come from revenue bills.  Something else that may reduce tension in Harrisburg is continued growth in PA tax revenues for this fiscal year.  If PA has a surplus or breaks even, it could dampen fears of another billion-dollar deficit for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.  According to the PA Revenue Department, February revenues exceeded estimates by $406.3 million.  Above prediction areas were Sales Tax, Personal Income Tax (PIT), and Inheritance Tax.  Coming in lower than expected were Real Estate Transfer Tax and Corporate Income Tax.  What makes the numbers look so good however is a transfusion from the Tobacco Settlement “advance” on future monies coming into the state.  Right now, revenues for this fiscal year stand at $20.9 billion, or $496 million (2.4%) above projections.

A separate issue is Governor Wolf’s reintroduction of a proposal to charge $25 per head for communities that rely on law enforcement from the State Police rather than their own police.

There is no line item per se in either the Governor’s proposed State Budget or HB 2121 for Broadband access for rural areas.

BUDGET (FARM SHOW LOAN) COMMENT

Rep. Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland) issued the following in her re-cap of Budget Secretary Randy Albright’s hearing before the House Appropriations Committee March 8:

Thursday’s hearing was with Secretary Randy Albright from the Office of the Budget. Several members questioned the Governor’s unilateral decision on a financing agreement. The agreement originally involved the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex but it is no longer included in the signed loan agreement. Albright described the agreement as a straight-up borrowing plan. Under the agreement, the Commonwealth received $200 million for its General Fund but will pay back $391.5 million over 29 years. Apart from being a bad deal for taxpayers, the Governor sidestepped the Legislature in making this decision. The General Assembly should have been not only involved in the decision-making process, but should have had the final say in the matter. Now future generations are on the hook for $191.5 million in interest payments, about $6.6 million a year, for the next nearly three decades.

UPCOMING

  • On April 5, the Center for Rural PA is holding a hearing in Wellsboro on Rural Broadband Access.  Information on this hearing is not yet available on the Center’s web site.  http://www.rural.palegislature.us/events.html
  • On March 21, the Senate Game & Fisheries Commission has scheduled a hearing on the annual reports of the PA Game Commission and the PA Fish & Boat Commission.
  • The House Game & Fisheries Committee is holding an informational meeting on the Fish & Boat Commission’s Annual Report March 27.  The following day, the committee has an informational meeting on the Annual Report of the PA Game Commission.
  • The March 14 hearing by the House Consumer Affairs Committee on House Bill 1620 (Broadband access) is cancelled and is not yet re-scheduled.

AG ONE Newsletter March 5, 2018

PSCFO CONCLUDES FOOD SAFETY WORKSHOPS

On March 1, the last of four workshops was held in Bedford County to inform produce growers on how to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act’s regulatory requirements.  The other three were held in Tamaqua (Schuylkill County), Kutztown (Berks County), and Windsor (York County). Presenters were from the PA Department of Agriculture who walked growers through areas such as worker safety & hygiene, use of water, risk of animal contamination, and ways to avoid contamination during storage.  Statistically, 46% of food sickness incidents requiring medical treatment and/or hospitalization have been traced back to farms.

In addition to farmers, numbers of legislators and staff also attended.  Attending were legislators Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, Senator Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill), Reps. Gary Day and Dave Maloney (R-Berks), Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), and Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar (R-Somerset/Bedford).  Staff represented the following legislators:  Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair); Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill and Rep. Kate Klunk (R-York); Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh); Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-Cambria/Bedford/Clearfield); and Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York), Majority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

DEPARTMENT & COMMODITY MARKETING

The PA Department of Agriculture announced March 3 that the PA Wine Marketing & Research Program Board is soliciting proposals on marketing and research projects to increase quality profitability, production and sale of wines.  Applications are due April 20, 2018 to PA Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Commodity Board Grant Program, 2301 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg, PA 17110.  Details: www.pabulletin.com

March 20, 2018 is the last postmarked date for referendum ballots on continuation of the PA Vegetable Marketing & Research Program to be submitted.  Eligible voters are vegetable producers who grew at least one acre of vegetables in 2017’s growing period or grew vegetables in greenhouses located in PA with total space of 1,000 square feet or more.  Voting began March 5.

AG DEPARTMENT PLANS SEVEN REGULATIONS

The PA Department of Agriculture plans to issue seven regulations in the first half of 2018:

  • Conservation Easement Program Contact: Douglas Wolfgang 717-783-3167
  • PA Preferred Contact: Laura England 717-783-8462
  • PA Vegetable Marketing Contact: Bill Troxell 717-694-3596
  • Rabies Prevention & Control Contact: Nanette Hanshaw, DVM 717-783-6677
  • Kennel Canine Health Contact: Kristin Donmoyer 717-705-8896
  • Weights, Standards & Measures Contact: Walt Remmert 717-787-6772
  • (Raw) Milk Sanitation             Contact: Lydia Johnson 717-787-4315

BUDGET HEARINGS CONCLUDE THIS WEEK

The annual House and Senate Appropriations Committee hearings on the State Budget conclude this week. Of key interest is the Governor’s Office and Office of the Budget on March 8 for both House and Senate Appropriations Committees where scrutiny may center on from where the revenue will come to fund the State Budget.  PA Cable Network (https://pcntv.com/schedule/ ) airs most of the hearings.  Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding testified before both committees.  Thanks to the Senate Majority Communications Office, following is a link to the Senate Appropriations hearing on February 28. https://pasen.wistia.com/medias/h86ncu5jfq The hearing touched on an array of topics ranging from hemp to the Farm Show lease-lease-back (equity loan).

POLITICS

  • Minority House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Bill Keller (D-Phila.) is not seeking re-election.  This means that both Majority and Minority Chairs of this committee will be new in 2019.
  • Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh)has dropped his congressional plans as did because of the PA Supreme Court imposed redistricting and is running for re-election.
  • Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) withdrew her bid for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor and is now running for Congress in the redrawn 4th congressional district.

PA SPECIAL ELECTION GARNERS NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

  • March 13 is the date of the special congressional election in southwest PA’s 18th district, pitting PA House Representative Rick Saccone (Republican) against Democrat Conor Lamb.  Saccone was elected to the PA House in 2010.  Lamb was an attorney with the Marines and former Assistant District Attorney in Pittsburgh during the Obama Administration.  This is seen as a referendum on Trump and GOP control of Congress.  Notables such as former Vice President Biden and President Trump are actively campaigning in the district.

USDA RENEWS CENSUS REQUEST

Even though the initial deadline was February 6, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) asks farmers who have not completed the Census of Agriculture to do so.  Please respond to www.agcounts.usda.gov or call King Whetstone at 717-787-3904 with questions.

FARM LINK PLANS SUCCESSION WORKSHOP in Chambersburg March 8.  The Farm Succession and Transition Workshop will help farmers to pass on the business to the next generation.  Farm Link and partner AgChoice Farm Credit are both PSCFO members.  Details: Michelle Kirk 717-705-2121  mkirk@pafarmlink.org

AG ONE Newsletter February 13, 2018

SPEAKER TURZAI SUSPENDS GOVERNOR EFFORT

Shortly before the PA Republican State Committee formally endorsed Senator Scott Wagner (R-York), Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suspended his candidacy for Governor.  This means that he will continue as a candidate for re-election to the PA House of Representatives.  Assuming Republicans maintain a majority in the November election, he would seek another term as Speaker.  The decision leaves two other candidates vying with Wagner for the GOP nomination, Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth, both from western PA.

DEMOCRATIC ENDORSEMENTS

The PA Democratic Party also met and endorsed Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Bob Casey, Jr. for re-election.  There was no endorsement for the Lt. Governor contest where incumbent Lt. Governor Mike Stack is fighting for his political life against several opponents including Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery).

AND NOW THE BUDGET GAUNTLET BEGINS!

On February 6, Governor Tom Wolf presented his proposed State Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018-19 to the General Assembly.  He projects spending to be $32.9 billion, an increase of $989.8 million (a 3.1% increase) over the current fiscal year. If you are a policy wonk or have put on a new pot of coffee, feel free to delve into the 930 page Budget Book produced by the Office of the Budget.  http://www.budget.pa.gov/PublicationsAndReports/CommonwealthBudget/Documents/2018-19%20Proposed%20Budget/2018-19%20Governor%27s%20Executive%20Budget%20-%20Web.pdf

Following are several of the changes the Governor is seeking (bold means specific rural impact):

  • There would be a new tax, the Marcellus Severance Tax: (248.7 million)
  • No increase in rate of Sales Tax or Personal Income Tax (PIT) is envisioned.
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $12 per hour has a target of reducing entitlement costs (Medicaid, etc.) by $101 million per year.
  • Merging the Department of Health into the Dept. of Human Services
  • Impacting 67% of all PA municipalities would be a $25 per person levy to fund State Police for those communities with no local law enforcement.
  • Additional $225 million for education with $100 million increase for basic education and $15 million increase for State System of Higher Education, $25 million increase in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and computer science education
  • $25 million more in child care
  • More spending ($33 million) on various programs directed at combating the opioid crisis
  • $74 million more for services for individuals with autism or intellectual disabilities
  • $2.5 million to combat Lyme Disease
  • Roads and bridges infrastructure includes $50 additional million for maintenance of low traffic roads and $40 million in new money for Rural Commercial Routes.
  • Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) gets $2.5 million additional to fund inspections of natural gas wells.

SPECIFICS AFFECTING AGRICULTURE

  • PA Department of Agriculture budget shows a $2 million decrease in General Fund monies from the current $177.034 million to $174.988 million for Fiscal Year 2018-19.
  • However, the good news was that the General Government Operations line item was increased $2.6 million from $30.784 million in the current fiscal year to a proposed $33.407 million.  This increase includes $1.597 million to combat the Spotted Lantern Fly, a pest particularly threatening PA’s wine and fruit industry.
  •  INCREASES
  • Transfer from Environmental Stewardship Fund from current $9.893 million to $11.037 million (Agriculture Conservation Easement Program)
  • Farm Products Show Fund from $12.798 million to $13.438 million
  • Equine Toxicology & Research Lab from $12.95 million to $13.025 million
  • Dog Law Administration from $7.4 million to $8.75 million
  • Fruit & Vegetable Inspection and Grading from $389,000 to $460,000
  • Conservation District Grants from $2.851 million to $2.877 million
  • ZEROED OUT:  Centers for Agricultural Excellence $1.331 million; Ag Research (not to be confused with Penn State) $1.687 million; Ag Promotion, Education & Exports $303,000; Hardwoods Research & Promotion $424,000; Livestock Show $215,000; Open Dairy Show $215,000; Food Marketing & Research $494,000.
  • SAFE (for now)Penn State Extension and Ag Research $52.313 million; UPenn Vet School $30.135; PA Preferred $605,000; Youth Shows $169,000; Nutrient Management $2.714 million; Dirt, Gravel Roads $28.0 million; State Food Purchases $19.188 million; PASS (Food Banks) $1.0 million; Farmers Market Food Coupons $2.079 million (state share)

AG ONE Newsletter January 23, 2018

GENERAL ASSEMBLY RETURNS TO HARRISBURG

The PA General Assembly has resumed work in the New Year.  Advancing the spring agenda were two high-profile House Republican priorities:  a work requirement for non-disabled Medicaid recipients and regulatory reforms per a report issued by the Majority Chair of the House State Government Committee Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler).  Note that a principal target of the State Government Committee report is the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. Also on the House side, the House Appropriations Committee is continuing its hearings with various state agencies on the Special Funds they control.  Underlying these hearings is the conviction shared by many House Republicans that PA’s Special Funds could be utilized to help balance the State Budget instead of having tax increases or additional borrowing by the state.

On the Senate agenda for third consideration (passage) is Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin) relating to application of turf grass fertilizer.  Another Alloway bill on third consideration is Senate Bill 799.  It seeks to replace the current municipalities’ storm sewer systems (MS4s) compliance with Chesapeake Bay nutrient reduction mandates with a private sector competitive bidding program.  Payment would come after Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) certifies nutrient reduction.

 LEGISLATOR UPDATES

  • Filling the term of her late husband Dan McNeill, Jeanne McNeill (D-Lehigh) was sworn in as Representative from the 133th district on January 2, 2018.  She was appointed to serve on House Environmental Resources & Energy, Game & Fisheries, Labor & Industry, and Local Government Committees.
  • Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington) is the newest Democratic member of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  She, along with Republican Kristin Phillips-Hill (York) sponsored four bills targeting expansion of Broadband access for rural Pennsylvanians.  Rep. Phillips-Hill spoke at a Farm Show panel to which the video link follows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0FPvXdYuP4&feature=youtu.be

PVGA OFFERS FUTURE OF AGRITOURISM EVENT 

Among programs offered by the PA Vegetable Growers’ Association at its annual conference in Hershey is a special program January 30 on the impact municipalities are having on agritourism.  Examined are conflicts between local ordinances and PA laws protecting normal farming activities: The Right to Farm Act; Agricultural Area Security Law; Municipalities Planning Code; Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act (Clean and Green); Farmland Preservation / Conservation Easement programs.  Presenting will be Extension’s John Berry and former Deputy Attorney General Susan Bucknam.  Details: John Berry, johnberry@psu.edu, 610.554.2561 (Thanks to January 20, 2018 PVGA Update newsletter)

FEBRUARY FSMA WORKSHOPS SCHEDULED

The Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) in cooperation with the PA Department of Agriculture will be holding community service seminars on February 26, 2018 in Windsor (York County) and March 1, 2018, in Bedford to inform farmers/agriculture producers about their compliance requirements under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Material is directed at vegetable/produce growers.  It will also cover elements of a farm risk management plan which includes food safety, Crop Insurance, and information on what to ask an insurance agent to make sure that farmers’ insurance needs are met.  These two workshops mark the third and fourth of the series presented by the PA Department of Agriculture and the PA State Council of Farm Organizations.  The others were held in Tamaqua (Schuylkill County) and Kutztown (Berks County).  For more information, please contact Vince Phillips at PSCFO 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com or Lynn Herman at 814-880-2272, lherman77@comcast.net.

REGULATORY NOTE:  Comments on DEP proposed changes to the General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (PAG-12) are due by February 20, 2018.  Among other changes would be using a crop year October 1 – September 30 instead of a calendar year.  Details: https://pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol48/48-3/115.html

 MORE SCHOLARSHIPS

  • (Due February 1) America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders program sponsored by the Monsanto Fund is accepting applications from those 23 years of age or younger who are enrolled in trade schools or college.  Details: www.GrowAgLeaders.com
  • PA Association of Environmental Professionals is offering scholarships to students pursuing an environmental science or related major degree.  (Due February 5)  Details: Kristin Aiosa kaiosa@jmt.com
  • PA Vegetable Growers Association Rudolph Grob Memorial Scholarship applicants must be enrolled in at least a two-year program and be child or grandchild to a PVGA member.  (Due March 31) Details: 717-694-3596 https://www.pvga.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/g-ldr-rec-scholarship-application-17.pdf
  • Open to high school seniors living in Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike Counties who will major in fish, game or wildlife management, forestry, environmental planning and related fields is a scholarship offered by the Northeast PA Audubon Society.  (Due April 30)  Details: http://www.nepaaudubon.org/?s=college+scholarships
  • Angus Foundation is offering scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students.  Applicants must have an active membership in the American Angus Association.  (Due May 1) Details: Milford Jenkins 816-383-5100; mjenkins@angusfoundation.org

AG ONE Newsletter December 22, 2017

This end-of-year issue focuses on several resources available to those involved in agriculture.  AG ONE Newsletter hopes that these will be of value to you as you plan for the New Year.  If you know of others, please let us know and AG ONE Newsletter will post them.

BUSINESS & FARM RESOURCES

  • The PA Department of Community & Economic Development announced the Pipeline Investment Program to help communities use some of the natural gas being produced in the Commonwealth. Specifically, it provides grants to construct the last few miles of natural gas distribution lines to business parks and existing manufacturing and industrial firms.  The maximum grant is not more than one million dollars or 50% of project costs, whichever is less. Details: 866-466-3972
  • REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) application packets for 2017-18 are available.  REAP provides tax credits for agricultural producers who make equipment purchases that reduce run-off of nutrients and sediment.  It is administered by the State Conservation Commission which provides support to county conservation districts.  Applications are on a first-come, first served basis.  Farmers may receive tax credits up to $150,000 per agricultural operation for 50-75 percent of the project’s cost.  Details: Joel Semke 717-705-4032 or jsemke@pa.gov.
  • The PA Department of Agriculture is using a grant from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to subsidize training for produce farmers on their compliance responsibilities under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  The subsidy is $130 out of the $150 registration fee so the net cost is $20.  Information and dates of workshops follow: https://extension.psu.edu/fsma-grower-training
  • January 18: Leesport, Berks County
  • January 29: Hershey, Dauphin County
  • February 13: Greensburg, Westmoreland County
  • February 20: Center Valley, Lehigh County
  • February 28: Lancaster, Lancaster County
  • March 6: University Park, Centre County
  • March 8: Biglerville, Adams County
  • The Center for Dairy Excellence is offering grants to dairy farmers to establish a team approach in planning for profitability, farm succession, and “Dairy Transformation”.  These grants are used to assemble a team of advisors and a facilitator and range from $2,000 to $5,000 (more if the Dairy Transformation farm plan involves a renewable energy component.)  Details: “Business Tools” tab on www.centerfordairyexcellence.org or Melissa Anderson 717-346-0849
  • PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a specialized program, the Agricultural Plan Reimbursement Program, which can cover some of the costs of technical help on plans for pollutant reduction in local streams and rivers.  Deadline to register to participate in the program is April 1, 2018.  Details: Sara Bolton 570-374-5700, sbolton@larsondesignergroup.com for northern counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Jedd Moncavage 717-721-6795 jeddm@teamaginc.com for southern counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS

  • Center for Dairy Excellence is accepting applications for a summer internship in its Harrisburg office.  DEADLINE IS DECEMBER 31, 2017.  Details: Mary Foote 717-346-0849, mfoote@centerfordairyexcellence.org
  • PA Farm Bureau’s PA Friends of Agriculture is offering scholarships to PFB families to students enrolling at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences or Delaware Valley University College of Agriculture.  In addition, a large animal veterinary studies scholarship is available.  Details: https://www.pfb.com/the-foundation/scholarships
  • PA State Grange offers the Rhone Scholarship to Grange members and families attending Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the PA State Grange Foundation Scholarship, and a Deaf Interpreter Scholarship for those Grange members enrolled in a certification program as an interpreter for the deaf.  Details:  www.pagrange.org
  • National Farmers Union has two scholarships for NFU members.  Details: 202-554-1600, http://nfu.org/education/scholarships
  • Delaware Valley University has 70-plus scholarships listed.  http://www.delval.edu/offices-services/financial-aid/scholarships
  • Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences lists scholarships by major for each of the 23 majors, from Agribusiness to Wildlife & Fisheries Science.  http://agsci.psu.edu/students/scholarships/scholarships
  • Specialized Scholarships:
  • National Dairy Herd Information Association (DHIA) is offering $1,500 scholarships to third or fourth year veterinary students who plan to work in dairy, dairy medicine and are interested in using software and dairy records to aid in dairy management. Details: Holly Thompson, hollyanne1001@gmail.com
  • American Society for Endology & Viticulture offers aid to those intending to have a career in the wine or grape industry. Details: http://asev.org/pod/apply-asev-scholarship
  • Center for Dairy Excellence lists a number of dairy scholarships: National Dairy Promotion & Research Board, National Dairy Shrine, PA Dairy Promotion Program, Dairy Science Scholarship (Delaware Valley University), PA Dairy Innovation Scholarship (Penn State).  Details: 717-346-0849 Jayne Sebright, http://centerfordairyexcellence.org/scholarships
  • Foundation for Rural Service (Rural Broadband Association/NTCA). Details: foundation@frs.org

AG ONE Newsletter November 28, 2017

Update on Farm Show “Lease Lease-Back”

Backdrop

On October 9, Governor Tom Wolf announced that he was unilaterally seeking a way to resolve the FY 2017-18 State Budget impasses with House Republicans by raising capital of up to $200 million from leasing the Farm Show Complex. Since then, various revenue measures were adopted by the General Assembly and signed into law to cover the deficit. Since the revenue legislation included borrowing ahead from future Master Tobacco Settlement payments to Pennsylvania totaling $1.5 billion, Governor Wolf dropped another initiative, to “securitize” or borrow ahead from future PA Liquor Control Board profits. The Farm Show financing process continued with bids from private sector investors starting October 13 and closing November 13. Four bids were received and the PA Department of General Services and PA Office of the Budget are reviewing them. A date has not been given as to when the winning bid will be announced.

What is the actual transaction taking place?

Called a lease lease-back, the transaction more closely resembles a home equity loan. Perhaps the Administration could have been clearer in explaining what financial investments were being done here. It would have reduced confusion among stakeholders.

Is it legal for the Governor to take this action without getting the prior consent of the General Assembly, especially since the legislature decides how much of the Commonwealth’s dollars the Farm Show will receive?

Yes. This is not a surprise to the General Assembly. Governor Tom Wolf made it very clear that he intended to do this when he gave his Budget Address to the General Assembly in February 2017. In addition, the issue was discussed at a Senate committee meeting and at innumerable separate meetings. Before deciding to take an equity loan on the Farm Show Complex, Administration legal counsel also determined that the Governor had the legal authority to make such a move.

Doesn’t this need an OK from the Farm Show’s governing body?

No. That board works on operations, not on financing arrangements such as this.

Will the Farm Show lose its ability to decide programming and conduct daily operations or will the new “owner” be able to decide how the Farm Show is managed and what shows will be held? For example, can the Farm Show Manager be ordered to do something the new “owner” wants such as more gun shows or detests (no gun shows)?

First, the word “owner” is incorrect. Whoever provides the capital for this equity loan is not the owner. The owner remains the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The contract has iron-clad language preventing any outside control. It is similar to a home equity loan where the lender does not have the legal authority to tell you what wallpaper to use or what has to be planted outside. The homeowner is the owner. With the Farm Show Complex, PA retains ownership.

The Office of the Budget frequently uses outside legal counsel as well as relying on attorney employees of the state to make sure PA’s interests are not compromised. Besides, any investor is making its money from interest paid on the loan and is not interested in managing the Farm Show Complex.

Will this new money be dedicated for remodeling and updating the physical structure of the Farm Show Complex?

No. This money will go into the General Fund to help balance the deficit. There is a separate effort to generate money for Farm Show renovations and updating HVAC, etc.

When the Governor said he would “securitize” future profits from the PA Liquor Control Board, he was very specific about the amount of money would be generated and the amount of interest that would be paid to service the loan. Why are there no specifics here? The PA Liquor Control Board plan is part of PA State Government so the details were known regarding the amount borrowed and the interest to pay back the loan. This seeks private sector financing and the costs connected with the equity loan would depend on the investor’s desired return on investment. Likewise, although the figure $200 million has been used publically as the amount that could be generated, the actual figure borrowed will depend on what bidders promise.

*****

CORRECTION TO AG ONE Newsletter 2017.18

In AG ONE Newsletter 2017.18, a legislative status report described House Bill 944 establishing a Commission for Agriculture Education Excellence as being in committee. That legislation was grafted into another School Code bill, House Bill 178 PN 2609 (Act 55 of 2017) which became law November 6 without the Governor’s signature. Text begins on page 45, Section 1549.1. .http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0 &billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0178&pn=2609 This establishes the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence to assist in developing a statewide plan for agriculture education and to coordinate PDA and Education Department efforts in doing so.

Thanks to PSCFO members Amy Bradford from PennAg Industries Association and Dr. MeeCee Baker from Versant Strategies for spotting the need for this update.

AG ONE Newsletter November 19, 2017

BUDGET FOLLOW UP

Despite enactment of the State Budget, there are still some loose ends.

  • Up in the air is Governor Wolf’s plan to take out what amounts to an equity loan on the state-owned Harrisburg Farm Show Complex.  His goal was to have the state receive a $200 million loan which would have to be repaid to the lender over 30 years.  There is speculation over the legality of such a move.  The bidding period closed November 13.
  • The medical malpractice insurer of last resort, the PA Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), sued the Commonwealth for what it says is illegally taking $200 million out of the insurer’s reserves to help balance the State Budget. (Act 44).
  • Governor Wolf has dropped his plan to borrow against future profits from the PA Liquor Control Board after the PA Commonwealth Financing Authority approved plans to borrow $1.5 billion from future Tobacco Settlement monies coming into the state. (Act 43 of 2017)
  • Unknown as of November 19 is from which dedicated funds Governor Wolf will take $300 million.  Thanks to authority given to him by the General Assembly in order to pass State Budget revenue bills, Governor Wolf can choose from as few or as many he wants.  Of concern to the agricultural industry are special funds such as the Conservation District Fund and others dedicated to agricultural and conservation efforts.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION RATE HIKE POSTPONED

A 6.06% increase in Workers’ Compensation premiums that would have taken effect November 1 has been delayed as reported by the Central Penn Business Journal due to a challenge from the PA Association for Justice (trial lawyers). Details were not released by the Insurance Department but the following was given in response to a query from Phillips Associates:  While the PCRB proposed a November 1, 2017 effective date in the filing, the Department can use up to 180 days to review the filing in accordance with Article VII of the Workers Compensation Act.  While we don’t anticipate needing the full 180 days contemplated by the law, we have not yet completed our review… If the filing is ultimately approved…there would be an amended effective date as we are now past the November 1, 2017 effective date proposed by the PCRB and cannot approve rates retroactively.

POLITICS

  • Former PA Secretary of Agriculture Denny Wolff is running for the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Barletta who is seeking the nomination to oppose Senator Casey in 2018.
  • PA Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Washington/Allegheny) was chosen as the GOP candidate in the special election to succeed resigned U.S. Representative Tim Murphy.  He defeated two PA Senators, Kim Ward and Guy Reschenthaler to win the Republican nomination.  The special election will take place March 13.  The winner would serve out the remainder of Murphy’s term, meaning that the winner faces a re-election contest in November 2018.
  • House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced his candidacy for the Republican nominee for Governor on November 14.  His announcement brings to four the Republicans vying for the nomination: Senator Scott Wagner (R-York), Allegheny County health consultant Paul Mango and Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth. 
  • January 25 is the date of the special election to replace Rep. Marc Gergely (D-Allegheny).  This district is traditionally Democratic.  Rep. Gergely was forced to step down after pleading guilty to violating gambling laws.
  • State Representative Justin Simmons (R-Northampton/Lehigh/Montgomery) has withdrawn from the contest for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Representative Charles Dent.

BILLS SIGNED BY GOVERNOR

Signed by the Governor October 30 was House Bill 790 (controlled and noxious weeds) which is now Act 46 of 2017. Prime sponsor is House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne). House Bill 176 (Pickett-R-Bradford) is now Act 35 after being signed by Governor Wolf October 25.  It exempts roadside marketing stands and some animal feeding operations from Uniform Construction Code (UCC) building requirements.

QUICK LOOK AT LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • Senate Bill 740 (Aument-R-Lancaster) continues Universal Service Fund (land-lines for rural areas).  Status: Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
  • Senate Bills 819 and 820 (Aument) agritourism liability are in Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee and Senate Judiciary Committees respectively.
  • House Bill 544 (Moul-R-Adams) is in the House Appropriations Committee.
  • House Bill 577 (Everett-R-Lycoming) Marcellus natural gas royalty 12.5% guarantee to leaseholders is in the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.  There is also a discharge resolution to have the full House take up the matter, bypassing the committee.
  • House Bill 944 (M. Keller-R-Perry) Commission for Agriculture Education is in the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

GRANTS

  • Up to $1,600.00 from KidsGardening can go to nonprofit, school, or youth programs that plan a new garden or expand an existing one.  Deadline for applications is December 8, 2017.  info@kidsgardening.org ; 802-660-4604
  • Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant applications are due December 5, 2017.  Awards are capped at $15,000 and applicants must work with a technical advisor such as an Extension educator or private crop consultant.  Details: http://www.northeastsare.org

AG ONE Newsletter October 30, 2017

BUDGET SAGA (FINALLY) ENDS

Update:

Please note the following updates to the AG ONE Newsletter below posted earlier today. These were signed into law today by Governor Tom Wolf:


HB 790
sponsored by House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) (controlled and noxious weeds) is Act 46

HB 542
Tax Code (taxes on fireworks, $1.5 billion loan from Tobacco Settlement, etc.) is now Act 43.

HB 785 Capital Facilities Debt Act (state indebtedness levels) is now Act 45.

HB 674 Fiscal Code (takes $200 million from an insurance company reserves; gives Governor discretion as to where $300 million will come from dedicated funds) is now Act 44

HB 118
(Labor & Industry inspection fees) is now Act 40.

SB 651
Capital Budget (authorization wish list for wide variety of state bricks and mortar projects) is now Act 52.

HB 271 (expands gambling in hopes of generating $200 million more revenue to the state) is now Act 42.

*****

With House action October 25 and 26, the revenue side to the State Budget was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.  He has ten days to approve, veto, or let the legislation go into effect without his signature.  Some major elements include:

  • Borrowing of $1.5 billion from future payments to Pennsylvania from the Tobacco Master Settlement to be paid back within 30 years  NOTE:  House Bill 542, page 271 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0542&pn=2598
  • Taking $200 million from reserves held by the Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), the medical malpractice insurer of last resort.  The Administrative Code bill specifies that if JUA does not hand over the money by December 1st, it will be abolished.  JUA says that it is illegal for the state to “seize” insurance company reserves and that it will sue to prevent this from occurring.  NOTE: House Bill 674, Article II-D, section 201-D  page 14: Similar language is found in House Bill 118 but this specifies that the Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear any challenge. http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0674&pn=2624
  • $200 million to come from gambling expansion (House Bill 271)
  • Senate Bill 651, the Capitol Budget, is a bricks and mortar wish list for projects funded by the Commonwealth.  Just because projects are listed here does not mean that the money is actually there. This is an authorization bill.  Examples for Capital Budget items might be a new barn for the Farm Show complex or significant upgrading to a state building HVAC system.
  • New Labor & Industry inspection fees schedule (boilers, elevators, ski lifts, etc. are found in Administrative Code bill, House Bill 118 starting on page 12.  www.legis.state.pa.us
  • New taxes on fireworks: 12% for consumers buying fireworks; annual fees ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 for permanent structures selling fireworks; and $3,000 per year for temporary structures.  One miscellaneous insurance provision is a $50,000 bond requirement for municipal fireworks displays.  (HB 542 page 257 dealing with new taxes on fireworks)

FARM SHOW LOAN IN LIMBO

In limbo is the Governor’s unilateral decision October 4 to borrow ahead (“securitize”) future profits from the PA Liquor Control Board and his October 9 pronouncement that PA would take out an equity loan on the Farm Show Complex owned by the state.  His rationale was that he would take budget matters into his own hands, absent a legislative resolution to the State Budget impasse. PSCFO has requested a meeting with Governor Wolf to discuss the Farm Show Complex loan issue.

AND…THERE IS A SLEEPER BUDGET ISSUE.

House Bill 674 contains this section:  SECTION 1726-G.FUND TRANSFERS.

DURING THE 2017-2018 FISCAL YEAR, $300,000,000 SHALL BE

TRANSFERRED FROM AMOUNTS AVAILABLE IN SPECIAL FUNDS AND

RESTRICTED ACCOUNTS TO THE GENERAL FUND.

This is the ultimate outcome of those seeking to balance the State Budget by taking monies from over 50 specified dedicated funds.  The Senate derailed that notion but this final language gives the Governor the discretionary authority to decide from which funds this $300 million shall come.  HB 674 does not contain language limiting his choices so they might or might not be  agriculture or environmental funds. PSCFO sent a heads up memo to Council members about this section.

SENATE BANKING & INSURANCE COMMITTEE HOLDS RX PRICE HEARING

On October 23, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee convened a prescription drug price transparency hearing relative to Senate Bill 637 (White-R-Indiana).  It presented starkly contrasting views between the pharmaceutical industry which maintained that manufacturing costs increases are quite reasonable versus insurers and prescription benefit managers (PBMs) which pointed accusing fingers at the drug industry for unwarranted price increases.  Testimony also came from the PA State Grange which said that price transparency could give insurance companies the ability to negotiate more effectively because they could compare pricing practices between states, such as a hypothetical Epi-pen charge of $150 in one state versus $600 in PA.

WEED BILL GOES TO GOVERNOR (No, not that weed…)

Presented to the Governor October 25 was House Bill 790 regarding controlled and noxious weeds.  Prime sponsor is House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne).

EXPECT WORKERS’ COMPENSATION HIKES

The PA Compensation Rating Bureau (PCRB) revised loss cost filing goes into effect November 1st. This translates into a general increase in Workers’ Compensation premiums of 6.06%, necessary to adapt to the Supreme Court striking down a major provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act regarding permanent  impairment evaluation standards.

YOUTH GARDENING GRANTS up to $500 will be awarded by Katie’s Krops.  Eligible are youths aged 9-16.  Harvests must be donated to food banks.  Application deadline is December 31.  Details:  http://www.katieskrops.com/start-a-garden.html House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) passed the Senate 49-0 on October 18 and was referred to the House Rules Committee.  The House now must consider amendments made to the bill in the Senate.

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