AG ONE Newsletter August 20, 2019

Dear Reader:  Maybe this should be re-titled “The Calendar Issue” of the AG ONE Newsletter.

~  Please note September 16, 2019 as the meeting date for the PA State Council of Farm Organizations with a Board meeting at 10:00 a.m. and a Council meeting at 1:00 p.m.  It will be held in room 309 in the PA Department of Agriculture Building at 2201 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110 – Details to follow.

~  Please spread the word to those producers with whom you have contact.  PSCFO and USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) with the active support of the PA Department of Agriculture are sponsoring a seminar on Crop Insurance and Risk Management on Thursday September 12, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon.  The event is being hosted by the MidAtlantic Farm Credit office at  15 Eby Chiquel Road in Mt. Joy, PA 17552 (Lancaster County).  Details:  717-728-1217, xenobun@aol.com or LHERMAN77@comcast.net

 Sincerely, Vince Phillips

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THREE BROADBAND HEARINGS SLATED FOR SEPTEMBER

The Senate Communications & Technology Committee is holding three hearings in September to discuss improving access to high-speed Broadband Internet in the Commonwealth.

  • September 3 Monroe County Safety Center in Stroudsburg, PA
  • September 5 Penn State Fayette Eberly Campus in Lemont Furnace, PA
  • September 23 at the State Capitol in Harrisburg

Achieving universal access to Broadband is a major priority of the PA State Council of Farm Organizations.  Details:  Chloe Mandara, Esq., Office of Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), Majority Chair, Senate Communications & Technology Committee.  717-787-7085; cmandara@pasen.gov .

 TWO MAJOR DAIRY EVENTS

The Center for Dairy Excellence, PA Department of Agriculture and dairy groups are spearheading two significant dairy events in PA this September.  First is the Dairy Financial & Risk Management Conference September 11, 2019.  Held at the Central Penn College in Summerdale, PA, bankers, credit managers, and financial consultants will receive briefings on the status of the Dairy Industry given market dynamics and will receive guidance on how to help dairy farmers develop business plans and implement best practices management.  In addition, Dairy Farmers of America’s Risk Management team will discuss risk management strategies for dairy farmers.    Registration deadline is September 6.  Details:  www.veterfordairyexcellence.org/dairy-financial-conference .

The second event is the All-American Dairy Show September 14-18 at the PA Farm Show Complex.  The All-American Dairy Show runs concurrently with the PA Holstein Fall Championship Show and the Eastern National Holstein Show.  A highlight this year is the 2019 Pennsylvania On-Farm Dairy Innovation Forum which will showcase opportunities for on-farm dairy processing, marketing, the PA Dairy Investment Program as well as Dairy Check-Off Resources.  The Forum will take place September 17.  Details: Melissa Anderson, 717-346-0849, manderson@pa.gov  or www.allamerican.pa.gov .

PDA CROP INSURANCE CONFERENCE ON AUGUST 28

The 19th Crop Insurance Conference takes place at the Farm Show Complex, Maclay Street entrance, on August 28.  Some program highlights:

  • Federal Crop Insurance Update (USDA Risk Management Agency)
  • Farm Services Agency Update
  • PA Farm Bill and Managing Risks
  • Risk Management Checklist

In addition, the PA Farm Bureau will brief attendees on Federal legislation and the Center for Dairy Excellence will discuss dairy profitability in these challenging times.  USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Survey will present results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture.  Details:  Laura England laenglish@pa.gov

RESOURCE OPPORTUNITY

The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Small Business Advantage Grant is taking applications.  Qualifiers are small businesses (100 or fewer employees) undertaking energy efficiency, pollution prevention or natural resource conservation projects.  These are matching grants of up to $7,000 and eligible projects must save the business at least $500 per year and at least 25% in annual energy consumption or pollution-related expenses.  Details:  DEP Small Business Ombudsman Office; 717-772-5160.

DATES & REMINDERS

  • August 28, 2019 is the submission deadline for nominations to the PA Beef Council Board of Directors.
  • September 1, 2019 is the date by which farmers seeking to enter the 2019 PA Soybean Contest must register.  Last year’s winner had a yield of 88.75 bushels per acre. Details: https://pasoybean.org/forms/growers/.
  • On September 4, 2019, the PA Milk Marketing Board is convening a hearing for all milk marketing areas in Harrisburg.  Testimony is being received on Over-Order Premium.  Location is in room 110, PA Department of Agriculture.  Details: tmoyer@pa.gov .
  • The Center for Dairy Excellence is seeking nominations for a seat on its Board of Directors.  Nominees must be dairy producers from southeast Pennsylvania and nominations must be received by October 1, 2019.  Details: Jayne Sebright jsebright@centerfordairyexcellence.org .

OFFICE NEWS:  EFFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 1st, the new office address for the PA State Council of Farm Organizations will be 3610 Kent Drive, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050.  Although the telephone number will remain 717-232-9665, it is strongly recommended that you use 717-728-1217 for the first two weeks of the month so as to make sure that the technology transfer is complete.

AG ONE Newsletter July 8, 2019

Dear Reader:

This issue of AG ONE Newsletter is longer than the usual two pages.  This comes from the fact that this summer has seen an incredible number of areas of interest to Agriculture take center stage.  Personally, I think this level of activity on Agriculture is unprecedented.

 Sincerely, Vince Phillips

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AGRICULTURE BUDGET RESULTS

In the FY 2019-20 State Budget, there are many outcomes about which the Agriculture Community can be pleased.  The law is Act 1A of 2019 (House Bill 790).  Highlights:

  • PA Department of Agriculture General Government Operations was increased from $32.299 million to $33.731 million.
  • Items deleted in the original State Budget proposal were restored: Hardwoods marketing, Livestock and Consumer Health Protection, Livestock Show, Open Dairy Show, etc.
  • There was a nominal increase in Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Research and Extension from $53.882 million to $54.960 million. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine received a slight increase from $31.039 to $31.660 million.
  • Remaining constant were funding for the Fairs, the University of Pennsylvania Center for Infectious Diseases, Food Market Coupons, Center for Rural PA, etc.

Of course, there are many more line items affecting Agriculture.  They are found in different places in HB 790.  Following is a link to HB 790.  PA Department of Agriculture line items begin on page 205.  DEP budget line items begin on page 237.

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2019&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0790&pn=2215

If you wish to see a summary comparing monies for line items in the 2018-19 Fiscal Year versus the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019, please refer to the PA Office of the Budget.

https://www.budget.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx

THERE WERE SOME DISAPPOINTMENTS

Certainly nothing serious considering the overall success of Agriculture in the State Budget, but there were things worth noting.  First, the rapid-response contingency fund to meet food threats such as Avian Influenza received $4 million instead of the requested $5 million.  PA Agriculture Surplus System (PASS) received $1.5 million. PA State Council of Farm Organizations adopted a policy in May stating that the amount should be $3 million for PASS.)

Given the fact that agricultural program funding has been in a desert in recent years, these outcomes are not something causing great stress.

WATCH THE OTHER BUDGET BILLS

In addition to the spending bill (HB 790), there are other accompanying bills, the Fiscal Code Bill (Senate Bill 712), the Tax Code Bill (House Bill 262), and the Administrative Code Bill (House Bill 1461).  These bills specify from where the money will come and how it will be spent.

Some items of interest to the Agricultural Community:

  • The Tax Code Bill increases Resource Enhancement and Protection Farm Conservation Tax Credit (REAP) by $3 million. REAP also raised tax credits to $250,000 in any seven-year period.  Tax credits can go up to 80 percent for high priority best management practices as determined by the State Conservation Commission.
  • The Fiscal Code Bill has a provision providing $5 million to the Commonwealth Funding Authority for organic transition, processing and marketing grants. Senate Bill 623 (Schwank-R-Berks) sets the criteria for this funding to work.  It is in the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.
  • The Fiscal Code Bill includes a $20 million payment for Growing Greener 2 Bond’s debt service from the General Fund. The remainder of perhaps $6 million would come from the Environment Stewardship Fund.

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS DISTRESSED WITH BUDGET

The environmental community opposed Governor Wolf’s original proposal to take monies from the Environmental Stewardship Fund to fund normal government operations and environmental protection programs. Ultimately, their advocacy was unsuccessful with about $10 million leaving the Environmental Stewardship Fund for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) in HB 790.

They were even unhappier with the Fiscal Code Bill (Senate Bill 712).   SB 712 gives the Secretary of the Budget authority to transfer up to $45 million from any other fund under the Governor’s authority to the operating budgets of DEP and DCNR.  The Fiscal Code Bill also includes a permanent authorization to transfer monies from the Recycling Fund for operating costs of DEP and DCNR.  Additionally, the Marcellus Legacy Fund will no longer transfer $20 million a year to the Environmental Stewardship Fund and the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee will cease to exist July 1, 2021.

The Growing Greener Coalition said that the Environmental Stewardship Fund transfers could have planted 32,000 acres of stream buffers.

Thanks to Dave Hess and the Environmental Digest for contributing information vital to this issue of AG ONE Newsletter.

WOLF SIGNS MUTIPLE AG BILLS INTO LAW

Governor Tom Wolf signed a number of bills into law which affect the Agricultural Community.

  • Act 28 (Senate Bill 338) increases allowable width for farm equipment to be 18 feet, up from the current 16 feet.
  • Act 33 (House Bill 370) provides flexibility for protected farms regarding an additional residence.
  • Act 34 (House Bill 1514) provides for the Farm to School program.
  • Act 35 (House Bill 1516) creates a rapid response fund for threats to agriculture such as Avian Flu.
  • Act 36 (House Bill 1520) sets forth criteria on how PA Preferred is to operate and also creates a program designed to help veterans to become farmers.
  • Act 37 (House Bill 1526) re-establishes the low interest program known as Agriculture Linked Investment Program.
  • Act 38 (House Bill 1590) creates the Dairy Investment Program.
  • Act 39 (Senate Bill 634) establishes the Conservation Excellence Grant Program.
  • Act 40 (Senate Bill 661) creates the Commonwealth Specialty Crop Program to supplement USDA’s grants by including such commodities as hemp or hops. It also establishes a grant program for urban agriculture, and restores a youth grant program.
  • Act 65 (Senate Bill 478) provides a personal income tax credit for landowners who sell or lease land or equipment to beginning farmers.
  • Act 66 (Senate Bill 585) establishes the PA Dairy Future Commission.

WOLF VETOES DAIRY BILL

The aura of good feelings surrounding these new laws was somewhat diminished by the July 2 veto of House Bill 915 that would have allowed milk haulers to be exempted from Interstate highway closures when a weather emergency is called.  House Bill 915 (Causer-R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) received a veto-proof House majority during its legislative journey (136-61).  The Senate vote was two short of a veto override (32-18).

In his veto message, the Governor said that HB 915 conflicts with the need for public safety, In my view, such an exemption runs counter to the safety of the driving public.”  House Majority Chair of the House Agriculture Marty Causer was quick to respond, “I’m not sure what the Governor fails to understand about the problems his travel bans have caused for our dairy industry, which is already struggling to stay afloat. You can spend all the money you want on things like developing the market for organics and increasing processing opportunities, but if you can’t get the milk off the farm, what’s the point?”

OTHER LEGISLATIVE NOTES:

  • Sunday hunting legislation, Senate Bill 147 (Laughlin-R-Erie), passed the Senate on June 26 by a vote of 36-14.  It has gone to the House where battle lines will again form.  The original language was watered down in the Senate by reducing the number of Sunday hunting days to three.  Separately, House Bill 102 (Maloney-R-Berks) passed the House back in May.  It authorizes after school hunting/gun safety education for students taught by PA Game Commission certified instructors.
  • House Resolution 222 (Lawrence-R-Chester) was adopted by the House on June 26.  It asks the Federal Food & Drug Administration to enforce their existing rule regarding the mislabeling of non-dairy products calling themselves “milk” or “dairy”.

BROADBAND ACTIVITY

On July 26, the Senate adopted two Resolutions sponsored by Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York).  They are Senate Resolution 47 which establishes a legislative task force committee on Broadband.  Senate Resolution 48 directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to review non-rural telecommunications companies to see if they are meeting their statutory requirements in providing Broadband to Pennsylvanians. Broadband access is a major priority of the PA State Council of Farm Organizations.