PMMB TO HOLD HEARING ON PAYMENT TRANSPARENCY
On May 1 the PA Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) will convene a hearing in Harrisburg at the PA Dept. of Agriculture to examine how to make over-order premium payments by dairy cooperatives more transparent. (Details: Doug Eberly 717-836-3115; firstname.lastname@example.org.) This is in response to a petition by Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster). The issue has been a long-standing concern for Rep. Lawrence who has introduced legislation in previous legislative sessions. He is circulating a sponsorship memo which says in part,
Many farmers question how many, if any, of these Over-Order Premium dollars actually come back to the Pennsylvania Dairy Farmer. Currently, the PMMB has no infrastructure to directly collect and distribute the milk premiums. This legislation would give the PMMB the ability, but not the requirement, to coordinate the collection and distribution of milk premiums with the Department of Revenue, which has an existing infrastructure in place. This proposal would significantly increase accountability and transparency on how this state-mandated money is collected and paid, and more importantly, would ensure that the funds actually get to dairy farmers.
PMMB HOUSE HEARING ON APRIL 17
The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs will receive testimony from the PA Milk Marketing Board on April 17 in Harrisburg. The over-order premium issue will likely be brought up since Rep. Lawrence serves on this committee.
HOUSE COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER MILK HAULING EXEMPTION
The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will hold an informational meeting on House Bill 915 on April 10. HB 915 allows for milk hauling even when a state of emergency has been declared. Although recognizing safety concerns, the legislation points to fact that milk would have to be dumped if farmers cannot ship their milk off-farm, adding to financial losses to dairy farmers. It is sponsored by committee chair Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter).
SPOTTED LANTERNFLY UPDATES
- In March, Dauphin County was added to the quarantine list for Spotted Lanternfly.
- In March, Delaware is quarantining eleven zip codes in New Castle County.
- On March 18, the House voted 194-0 to designate the ‘Tree of Heaven’ plant as a noxious weed since it is the favorite food of the Spotted Lanternfly. (House Bill 404 sponsored by Rep. John Lawrence.)
HOUSE ADOPTS AGRICULTURAL RESOLUTIONS
Adopted by the PA House in March were two resolutions regarding agriculture. House Resolution 103 sponsored by Rep. Barbara Gleim (R-Cumberland) designated March 18-22 as ‘Pennsylvania Ag Literacy Week’ (March 18). House Resolution 174 sponsored by Rep. Karen Boback (R-Lackawanna/Lycoming/Luzerne) recognizes the importance of 4-H. (March 27).
CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION TAKES CENTER STAGE
In March, the House passed a bipartisan group of bills promoting career and technical education, some of which specifically involve agriculture.
- House Bill 393 (Harkins-D-Erie) establishes an interagency (Agriculture, Education, Labor & Industry Departments) online career resource center.
- House Bill 297 (Mako-R-Northampton) directs the Department of Education to prepare materials outlining future workforce needs and earnings potentials.
- House Bill 394 (Mullery-D-Luzerne) directs the Departments of Education and Labor & Industry to set up a workforce development program clearinghouse. The PA Department of Agriculture is not formally included but PDA officials say they will certainly have a seat at the proverbial table.
- House Bill 334 (Grove-R-York) sets 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. HB 334 also requires updates every five years for science, technology, AND mathematics courses that can be applied as credits for completion of course, program, or activity offered by any vocational-technical school, technical institute, or vocational school or department.
In addition, adopted by the House March 20 was House Resolution 110 (Klunk-R-York) urging the U.S. Congress to amend the 529 College Savings Program to allow eligibility for purchase of tools and equipment. Now, 529 money can be used for tuition, board, books, room/board, etc. but not for tools and equipment for those entering the trades.
In the Senate, Senate Bill 89 sponsored by Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.) was reported out by the Senate Education Committee March 19 and re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee March 27. It replaces legislative references to the terms ‘vocational-technical’, ‘vocation’ and ‘vocational’ with the current phrasing ‘career and technical’ and renaming the State Board of Vocational Education as the State Board of Career and Technical Education (CTE).
- On April 9, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will conduct a public hearing to consider the re-nomination of Russell Redding as Secretary of the PA Department of Agriculture.