AG One Newsletter May 7, 2019

NOW THERE ARE TWO OMNIBUS AG PLANS

In addition to the PA Farm Bill advanced by the Wolf Administration, Senate Republicans are pushing a package of seven “Farming First” bills designed to help PA Agriculture.

  • AGRI-TOURISM: Senate Bill 583 (Aument-R-Lancaster) seeks to standardize what constitutes agri-tourism on preserved farms.  Status: Passed by the Senate May 7 by a 47-0 vote.
  • AGRI-TOURISM: Senate Bill 453 (Ward-R-Blair) provides for an exemption from the Universal Construction Code for buildings that host weddings, receptions and similar events.  Status:  Passed the the Senate 27-20 on May 7.  Its’ House counterpart, House Bill 1037 (Lawrence-R-Chester) was reported out by the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee 17-7 on May 7.
  • BEGINNING FARMERS: Senate Bill 478 (Vogel-R-Beaver) provides a Personal Income Tax credit to landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings, and equipment to beginning farmers.  Status:  The Senate voted for passage 47-0 on May 7.
  • DAIRY:  Senate Bill 585 (Corman-R-Centre) would establish the PA Dairy Future Commission to bring together stakeholders and state agencies to recommend solutions to problems faced by PA dairy farmers.  Status: Passed Senate 47-0 on May 7.
  • DAIRY:  Senate Bill 588 (Ward-R-Blair and Yaw-R-Lycoming) permits milk haulers to travel on highways during a declaration of emergency.  This is identical to House Bill 915 which is awaiting House action.  Status:  Passed 32-15 on May 7.
  • FARM SUCCESSION:  Senate Bill 145 (Yaw) gives farmers more discretion regarding construction and subdivision of residences on protected farmland.  Its’ purpose is to help with farm succession.  Status:  Reported out by Senate Appropriations Committee April 8 by a 22-0 vote.  Its’ counterpart is House-passed House Bill 370 (Klunk-R-York).
  • TRANSPORTATION: Senate Bill 338 (Langerholc-R-Cambria) would increase allowable width of farm equipment from the current 16 feet to 18 feet.  Status: Reported out unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee May 6.

HOUSE CTE PACKAGE IS IN SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE

  • The package of House-passed career & technical education bills have all been referred to the Senate Education Committee.  They are: House Bill 393 (Harkins-D-Erie) establishing an interagency (Agriculture, Education, Labor & Industry Departments) online career resource center; House Bill 394 (Mullery-D-Luzerne) directing the Departments of Education and Labor & Industry to set up a workforce development program clearinghouse; House Bill 297 (Mako-R-Northampton) directing the Department of Education to prepare materials outlining future workforce needs and earnings potentials; House Bill 334 (Grove-R-York) setting procedures for public schools to apply for a vocational classification code for a specified program of technical education.  It also authorizes the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence, with approval by the Department of Education, to develop guidelines when a student may apply an academic course, program, or activity towards completion of an agricultural education program.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • House Bill 915 which allows milk hauling even when a state of emergency passed the House 136-61 on May 7.  Note: This is a veto-proof majority given PennDOT’s opposition to the bill.
  • House Bill 629 (Rapp-R-Warren) mandates health insurer coverage for extended antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease.  It passed the House and was referred to the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee on April 22.
  • May 5-11 has been recognized as Conservation District Week per House Resolution 249 (Causer-R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) which was adopted April 29 by the House.
  • Also adopted April 29 was House Resolution 252 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster) designating April 27 as “World Veterinary Day” in Pennsylvania.
  • Now in the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is House Bill 441 (Sonney-R-Erie) allowing right-of-ways for wind power generating systems on protected farmland.

BROADBAND ACTIVITY

There is exciting news from the General Assembly regarding a PSCFO top priority – universal access to Broadband throughout rural PA.  The House Broadband Caucus reorganized for this legislative session.  Co-chairs are Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Fayette/Greene/Washington) and Rep. Rich Irvin (R-Mifflin/Huntingdon/Centre).  Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) announced that she will try to establish a joint House and Senate Broadband Caucus.

One of the Broadband bills, House Bill 305 (Snyder) directing the Commonwealth to prepare an inventory of state-owned structures that could be ‘piggy-backed’ with telecommunications equipment in a public-private partnership, was reported out unanimously by the State Government Committee on May 6.

COMING UP… The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will have a May 16 informational meeting on the forest products industryOn May 9, the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee will hold an informational meeting to discuss the Department of Environmental Protection permitting process…The Senate Appropriations Committee is considering four of the Senate Republicans’ “Farming First” package – SB 338, SB 478, SB 583, and SB 585.

AG One Newsletter February 25, 2019

GOVERNOR WOLF PRESENTS THE PA FARM BILL

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

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

ADMINISTRATION PRESENTS INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN (Including Broadband)

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

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

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

WOTUS COMMENT DEADLINE EXTENDED

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

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

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

REGULATORY UPDATES

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

 

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT SEEN AS HOUSE PRIORITY

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

 

UPCOMING HARRISBURG HEARINGS

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

AG ONE Newsletter December 2, 2018

Dear Reader:

Please mark February 5, 2019, on your calendar.  It will be the PA State Council of Farm Organizations Capitol Hill meeting and will coincide with Governor Tom Wolf’s Budget Address to the General Assembly.  There, he will present his Administration’s State Budget priorities.  Agriculture did pretty well in the current budget.  On February 5, we will know what funding  battles will be fought by the Agriculture Community.  Also, although program details are not locked in, we traditionally have the Secretary of Agriculture, Executive Directors of the House and Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees, and the Ag institutions — Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Delaware Valley University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. This will be followed by the heralded Cornucopia Legislative Reception in the Capitol’s Main Rotunda. .  Sincerely, Vince Phillips

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PSCFO INITIATES DEDICATION TO AGRICULTURE AWARD

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations has initiated the PSCFO Dedication to Agriculture Award to be presented to an individual February 5, 2019.  Nominations must be endorsed by a PSCFO member organization.  Nomination criteria for the award must be based on one or more of the following:

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

Nominees must be Pennsylvanians by birth or residence.  The nomination period runs from December 10, 2018 to January 15, 2019.  Details: xenobun@aol.com, 717-232-9665

PDA SEEKS HEMP RESEARCH PROJECTS

On November 27, the PA Department of Agriculture announced that it is taking applications for sixty 2019 industrial hemp research permits.  This is the third year for this program authorized by the Farm Bill.  As Secretary Redding told the State Council of Farm Organizations at its November meeting, hemp research expanded in PA from 70 acres in 2017 to 720 acres in 2018 with plans for 6,000 acres in 2019.  He pointed to industrial hemp’s many uses for fiber and food grade oil and expressed hope that the 2018 Farm Bill would remove barriers to wider production.  Deadline for applications is December 17, 2018.  Details:  717-787-4843, Bureau of Plant Industry.

https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/industrial_hemp/Pages/default.aspx

WINE GRANT OPPORTUNITY

PA Wine Board is seeking applications for grants to conduct promotion, marketing, and sale of wines, enhance the wine industry and benefit wine producers in Pennsylvania.  Deadline for proposals is January 18, 2019.  Details:  Patrick Andrews, patriandrew@pa.gov

PSCFO NEWS

Rick Leese has been named to the PSCFO Board, replacing Dan Leese whose family moved to China.  Representing the PA Farm Bureau, Rick is a Fulton County farmer raising beef cattle and vegetables as well as hog finishing.  Earlier, Colleen Hershey was appointed to fill the term of Amy Bradford who had a job change.  Colleen represents PennAg Industries Association.

DECEMBER IS A CROWDED MONTH

There are numerous events scheduled in December by various agricultural groups.

  • December 11-12, PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) is presenting a two-day intensive workshop for experienced growers seeking to enter wholesale or institutional (hospitals/businesses, etc.) markets.  Location: Gibsonia, Allegheny County.  Details: www.pasafarming.org
  • Other PASA vegetable grower meetings are December 11 in Easton, Northampton County  on future planning and December 17 in Kintnersville, Bucks County, on Biologic Controls for Better Pest Management
  • December 11, PA Farmers Union presents the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Grower Certification Training in Gibsonia.  Details: pafarmersunion@gmail.com
  • December 12, Penn State Extension Dairy Team offers a free workshop on consistent milking practices that emphasize cleanliness, udder stimulation, etc. in Huntingdon.  Details: 877-345-0691
  • December 12, Penn State Extension Ag Issues Breakfast in Gettysburg will examine Agriculture Labor Law and the Temporary Agricultural Guest Worker Program (H-2 Program).  Details: Daniel Weber 717-334-6271 or Daniel.weber@psu.edu
  • Dec. 12 – Dec. 20, Penn State Extension and the PA Soybean Board are presenting soybean production workshops at Delaware Valley University, Pleasant Gap, Beaver, and Dauphin, PA.  Details: 877-345-0691

POLITICS:  STATE

  • Incumbent Republican Senator ‘Tommy’ Tomlinson’s (Bucks) is now the official winner of the 2018 election by 74 votes out of over 100,000 votes cast. Democratic challenger Tina Davis brought legal action to have additional absentee votes counted but was rebuffed by the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.  Davis still retains her seat in the PA House.
  • Incumbent Republican Rep. Bud Cook’s (Washington/Fayette) lead shrank to 11 votes after provisional ballots were examined.
  • Pa Senate Republicans are seeking proof of residency in PA for Democrat Lindsay Williams who took the seat held by former Allegheny County Senator Randy Vulakovich. At issue is whether Williams met the constitutional requirement of four years residency, possibly having resided in Maryland for part of that time.

IN MEMORIUM…Former PA Representative Vincent Biancucci (D-Beaver) passed away at the age of 78.  He succeeded Nick Colafella in that position and served 2002 through 2008.

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 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 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.

AG ONE Newsletter October 19, 2017

On Tuesday October 17, the PA House of Representatives passed House Bill 542, the latest incarnation of a revenue plan to match the State Budget spending plan passed last summer.  The vote was 102 – 88 with significant crossovers.  46 Republican Representatives voted no to Republican leadership-endorsed HB 542 while 32 Democrats including Democratic leadership voted to support the bill.

Now, of course, it is up to the Senate to concur.  Previously, the Senate voted for Marcellus Shale taxes which the House did not accept.  The House countered with a revenue bill that went after special dedicated funds such as a fund used to cover Insurance Department general government operations, monies dedicated to conservation, districts, etc.  The Senate disagreed so this House vote on HB 542 was its response to the Senate rejection. The Senate is expected to vote next week.  If the Senate agrees, HB 542 will go to Governor Wolf.

Following are a number of provisions in HB 542 that might be of interest.

  • Borrowing from future revenues from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement is expected to generate $1.5 billion.  It will be repaid over the next 30 years.

Background: The Tobacco Settlement was the result of lawsuits against tobacco companies which resulted in a settlement where tobacco companies would not have to fight off many individual lawsuits but would instead pay states certain amounts each year.  Pennsylvania uses that money to fund medical research, smoking cessation, uncompensated care from hospitals, specialized state health programs, etc. 

  • Expansions of the Sales Tax
  • “Remote sellers” = $10 million in this fiscal year and $50 million thereafter
  • Exemption from the Sales Tax: Beer kegs
  • Personal Income Tax (PIT) Expansion = $20 million
  • Those making rent or royalty payments to out of state entities exceeding $5,000 must withhold the PIT.
  • Out of state independent contractors coming into PA for work receiving over $5,000 will see PIT withheld from their compensation.
  • Personal Income Tax
  • Deductions for contributions to ABLE (disabled account similar to IRA) allowed
  • Makes permanent check-offs for Wildlife Resource Confirmation Fund, Organ Donation Awareness Fund, American Red Cross, Military & Family Relief Assistance Fund, Children’s Trust Fund
  • New Taxes
  • Carsharing Fee depending on distance from 25 cents to $2.00. Monies go into a dedicated account, the Public Transportation Assistance Fund.  Carsharing is defined as membership providing an alternative to a privately-owned vehicle where the rental is not trip-specific written agreement, no attendant is present when the car is used, and with access to shared vehicles 24 hours a day, fees can be based on time or distance.
  • Fireworks: 12% tax on consumer fireworks
  • Annual license fees paid by fireworks sellers for permanent structures facilities range from $7,500 to $20,000 depending on square footage.
  • Annual license fees for temporary (seasonal) fireworks facilities are $3,000.
  • Miscellaneous:  Anticipated revenue is $20 million/year.
  • Taxpayer period to file petition for reassessment shrinks from 90 to 60 days.
  • Period where a taxpayer appeals a Board of Appeals tax decision to the Board of Finance Revenue decreases from 90 to 60 days.

Those interested in how Representatives voted may go to

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/RC/Public/rc_view_action2.cfm?sess_yr=2017&sess_ind=0&rc_body=H&rc_nbr=768

OTHER LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • No funding yet for Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.  A joint hearing will be held by the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs, Senate Education, and Senate Appropriations Committees October 25 on funding for Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
  • The House adopted House Resolution 515 (Fritz-R-Susquehanna) on October 17 putting the House on record as opposing a September 13 decision by the Delaware River Basin Commission to move a Rule forward to ban fracking in most of northeast PA.  The Commission vote was 3-1 with one abstention.  PA Governor Wolf voted with the Governors of New York and Delaware for the anti-fracking Rule.  The House vote does not legally prevent the Delaware River Basin Commission from moving ahead with the Rule review process.
  • 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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