AG ONE Newsletter April 6, 2017

HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET ADVANCES TO SENATE

By a 114-84 vote April 4, the PA House voted to send the Republican-crafted State Budget Bill to the PA Senate.  There were four Republicans voting no on House Bill 218: Representatives DiGirolamo (Bucks), McGinnis (Blair), Harper (Montgomery), and Hennessey (Chester).  No Democrats voted for HB 218.  Following is a comparison between the present fiscal year, what Governor Wolf originally proposed in February, and what House Bill 218 seeks to do.

PA Department of Agriculture

Budget Line Item                                FY 2016-17        Governor                  House Bill 218

General Government Operations          29.379 million   31.612 million           29,557 million

Centers for Excellence                        1.21 million       0                                1.029 million

Food Market Coupons                         2.079 million     2.079 million             2.079 million

Ag Research                                      1.687 million     0                                0

Ag Promotion, Education, Exports       250,000             0                                0

Hardwoods Research & Promotion      385,000             0                                328,000

Livestock Show                                 195,000             0                                0

Open Dairy Show                              195,000             0                                0

Youth Shows                                     154.000             154,000                     131,000

Food Purchases                                 19.188 million  19.188 million            19.188 million

Transfer Nutrient Fund                       2.714 million     2.714 million             2.307 million

Transfer Conservation Districts           869,000             869,000                     739,000

Land Scrip (PSU Ag Research/Ext.)     51.813 million   51.813 million           51.813 million

PA Preferred                                      605,000             605,000                     514,000

UPenn Vet School                              30.135 million   0                                0

Department of Environmental Protection budget in HB 218 includes $2.13 million transferred to the Conservation District Fund and $2.423 million for Chesapeake Bay Agriculture Source Management.

COMING UP

  • On April 17, there will be a joint hearing of three House committees (Human Services, Aging & Older Adult Services, and Health) on Governor Wolf’s proposed consolidation of four separate Cabinet departments into one Department of Health & Human Services.  There has already been strong backlash from Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) who led a well-attended rally April 5 of supporters of the PA Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs.  Dept. of Aging advocates have also weighed in, fearing a dilution of the Commonwealth’s commitment to seniors if the Aging Dept. is absorbed.
  • On May 3, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, on issues related to the forest products industry.
  • On May 10 in Harrisburg, the same committee will hear from PDA Secretary Russell Redding on budget and other priorities of the PA Department of Agriculture.

APPLE MARKETING ORDER

On April 4, the Agriculture Department issued a release stating that PA apple growers may vote on the “Pennsylvania Apple Program”.  This replaces the terminated PA Apple Marketing Program.  Eligible growers are those with 500-plus apple trees.  The proposed program has a grower assessment of five cents per bushel with an estimated $200,000 – $250,000 in revenue which would be used to fund U.S. Apple Association membership, apple research, consumer education, and program administration.  PDA must receive ballots by April 21. Details: www.pennsylvaniaapples.org/about/board-staff

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • Sunday Falconry Hunting (Senate Bill 123 (Scavello-R-Monroe) passed the Senate 47-0.
  • Structures used in maple sugar operations would be exempted from building requirements of the Universal Construction Code (UCC) per House Bill 177 which passed the House 196-0.

USDA NASS SEEKS AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION HELP

The National Agricultural Statistics Service issued a plea for agricultural groups to actively partner with NASS in urging farmers to participate in the 2017 Census of Agriculture, a survey that will be forthcoming in December of this year.  Even though the request comes early, Regional Director King Whetstone says that support in promoting the Census is critical to its success.  He notes that the Census is taken every five years and provides a basis for various Federal program resources and activities to be apportioned.  It also provides base yield data to help farmers receive an accurate Crop Insurance payment should a claim be filed.  Details: 717-787-3904, www.agcensus.usda.gov

NASS ISSUES PLANTING FORECASTS

On April 3, NASS issued prospective planting numbers for Pennsylvania.  It projects a three-percent increase in soybeans from last year, 18% increase for barley, five-percent increase for winter wheat, seven-percent increase for hay, and no change in planted acres for oats.  Decreased acreage is forecast for corn (down two percent) and tobacco (down one percent).

POLITICAL NOTE…

Phila. Democrat Emilio Vazguez won a special election in the 197th district.

AG ONE Newsletter March 20, 2017

DEPARTMENT ISSUES AVIAN INFLUENZA PRECAUTIONARY

According to Secretary Russell Redding as quoted in a PA Department of Agriculture March 6 press release, “After a year reprieve, high-path avian influenza is back in the lower 48 states and that should be a cause for concern. The best defense against HPAI is a good offense, beginning with an effective biosecurity plan that has been prepared, planned and practiced by individual facilities. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture also urges flock owners to develop a site-specific HPAI flock plan.”

Per the Department, there is $2 million dedicated to this purpose in addition to the $1.1 million already invested in preparedness during FY 2015-16.  The Department’s State Veterinarian, Dr. David Wolfgang, explained that biosecurity plans should focus on cleanliness and isolating domestic birds from those in the wild. This also means keeping livestock, domestic animals, rodents and other pests away. Agricultural producers have also been made aware that that the virus can be carried on shoes and boots as well as tools and vehicle tires, so flock owners should limit visitors and deliveries to only those who have cleaned and sanitized appropriately.  Those who see signs of infection are urged to call 717-772-2852.  PDA’s website has a section dealing with HPAI and biosecurity measures, www.agriculture.pa.gov

TRUMP BUDGET CUTS FEDERAL RURAL DOLLARS

The Federal Budget proposed by President Donald Trump increases spending for Defense/Homeland Security and includes major cuts at the State Department/ foreign aid programs as well as cutting resources for the Environmental Protection Agency and USDA.  Discretionary spending for USDA saw a $4.7 billion or 20.7% reduction.  This was third largest percentage cut after the EPA (-31.4%) and the State Department (-28.7%).  This Budget includes discretionary spending which makes up about a quarter of the total Federal Budget.  In May, President Trump is expected to lay out his ideas for mandated programs such as Crop Insurance and other farm programs.  Some of the cuts enumerated in this proposal include cuts to USDA county –level staff, NASS funding, elimination of USDA’s rural wastewater and water loan and grant program (consolidating into an EPA program).  The Budget also seeks $350 million for agriculture research funded through the Agriculture & Food Research initiative, half of what was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA nutrition programs (WIC and SNAP) would see a $200 million drop.  The elimination of Chesapeake Bay funding prompted Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell to say that the proposed Federal Budget would “abandon farmers.”

BILLS TO WATCH

  • House Bill 587 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster) and Senate Bill 487 (Vogel-R-Beaver) mandate creation of a DEP online tracking system to see where DEP permit applications are in the approval process.
  • House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) replaces the Noxious Weed Control Act of 1982 with an updated Controlled Plant & Noxious Weed Act.
  • House Bill 187 (Sonney-R-Erie) allows preserved farms to grant right of way for wind energy generation.
  • House Bill 503 (Charlton-R-Delaware) proposes Growing Greener III to provide a potential $315 million for conservation, farmland preservation, etc. Senators Killion, Alloway and McIlhinney plan similar legislation in the Senate.
  • House Bill 557 (Everett-R-Lycoming) seeks to protect property owners’ rights when it comes to natural gas royalty payments. Similar legislation (Senate Bills 138 and 139) from Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) is seeing Senate action.
  • House Bill 251 (Kauffman-R-Franklin provides for a Farmland Preservation license plate.
  • Senate Bill 246 (Leach-D-Chester/Delaware) prohibits use of certain antibiotics in farm animal feed

AND, IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, The PA House adopted House Resolution 67 (M. Keller-R-Perry) recognizing the week of February 18-25, 2017 as “FFA Week”.

PEOPLE…

PDA Deputy Secretary Cheryl Cook was awarded the National Farmers’ Union’s highest honor, The NFU Meritorious Service Award at the group’s annual convention in San Diego.

GRANTS/SCHOLARSHIPS

  • Monsanto offers $10,000 and $25,000 grants to school districts nominated by farmers.  If awarded, grant(s) will help a school district develop or strengthen a Math/Science program.  Nominations of school districts must be submitted by April 1, 2017.  Monsanto will contact a nominated school district to help them develop a specific proposal – with a quick turn-around of April 15.  Details: www.GrowRuralEducation.com .
  • Bayer Bee Care Leadership Award recognizes partnerships between beekeepers and growers, golf courses, researchers, or other stakeholders to protect pollinators.  Award is $5,000.  A $1,000 award recognizes a young beekeeper under 18 years of age for school or community work in building apiaries and researching ways to improve honey bee health.  (May 17 deadline) Contact: https://www.cropscience.bayer.us/contact
  • PA Septage Management Association offers a $1,000 scholarship to an employee, child or grandchild of those involved in onlot systems installation or maintenance.  Deadline for applications is May 15, 2017.  (NOTE: PSMA member companies only).  Details: www.psma.net

GENERAL FARM ORGANIZATION SCHOLARSHIPS

  • PA Friends of Agriculture Foundation (PA Farm Bureau) for Penn State, Delaware Valley, or University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine pfb.com
  • PA State Grange pagrange.org for Penn State. There is also a separate scholarship for those enrolled in an interpreter for the deaf program.  NOTE: Deadline is May 1, 2017.
  • National Farmers Union www.nfu.org/education/scholarships   It does not specify a particular college.

Budget Numbers (Still) Improving

budget paThe PA Revenue Department May 4 announced that collections in April exceeded expectations by $201 million.  This brings year-to-date revenues to $569.1 million above estimate.  This extra revenue was seen in Corporate Net Income Tax, Personal Property Tax, and Sales & Use Tax.  Two areas where revenues came in lower than anticipated were Real Estate Transfer Tax and cigarette/table games/liquor taxes.  This $569.1 million surplus may impact Budget negotiations between the Governor and General Assembly.

Don’t Miss the March 3 PSCFO Meeting!

Cornucopia 2012 200x167The March 3 Council program will feature both Republican and Democratic Chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees to discuss what agricultural issues are likely to come up before the General Assembly.

In addition, PA Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding will present some of the Wolf Administration’s thinking on how PA Agriculture jobs and workforce development are central to Pennsylvania’s total economic well-being.

March 3 is also the day when Governor Wolf presents his State Budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015 to the General Assembly so expect plenty of buzz about the Department of Agriculture budget.   The PSCFO Board truly hopes you will attend this informative and useful session.

Click here for more information.

Why the Budget Buzz?

BudgetThe Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), created by the General Assembly in 2010 to give the legislature a separate tool for State Budget analysis, released a report that said PA is in for hard times (http://www.ifo.state.pa.us/Releases.cfm).

IFO said that the fiscal year State Budget beginning July 1, 2015 could not utilize the $619 million one-time devices and $572 in non-recurring revenues used by the Corbett Administration to balance this year’s budget and so will be $1.85 billion in the red for FY 2015-16.

Part of that analysis included an IFO prediction that PA would have $171 million less than expected this fiscal year — and that figure may be questioned given  better than estimated revenue numbers reported for October and November — $109 million more than anticipated for this fiscal year.

IFO, the Corbett Administration and the incoming Wolf Administration agree that the Commonwealth will be challenged but there is significant disagreement as to the causes and obviously whether or not the Corbett Administration got Pennsylvania out of a Rendell fiscal hole or into a new one.

The Governor’s Budget Office’s December 3 briefing recognized the fiscal shortfall. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said that “we’ve faced these sorts of deficits every year in this administration” and they are due to mandated costs exceeding revenues.  For the 2015-16 Fiscal Year, Zogby said that there would be spending increases in debt service (interest), corrections, pensions, and in the Department of Human Services (formerly Department of Public Welfare).

Governor-elect Wolf’s transition team issued a statement December 2 which said:

  • The FY 2014-15 Budget was built on one-time revenue sources
  • Prediction: PA will be cash-flow negative from January-March 2015.
  • The state has maxed its line of credit
  • PA is 50th in the nation in job creation.
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