AG ONE Newsletter August 8, 2018

AG PROGRESS DAYS GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES

August 15 includes a number of government affairs activities at AG Progress Days. First is a joint hearing convened by the Senate and House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees August 15 to hear testimony from major farm groups on issues of importance to them.  Expect a focus on PA’s dairy industry, Broadband access, and sustainability issues.  Information: Kerry Golden kgolden@pahousegop.com and Destiny Zeiders dzeiders@pahouse.net. Other meetings are:

  • The annual Government and Industry Luncheon (tickets required). Details: Corinna Fisher 814-863-2822, fisher@pasu.edu. Another governmental meeting will be the
  • U.S. Rep. ‘G.T.’ Thompson has an afternoon meeting to discuss the 2018 Farm Bill.  As voce-chair of the House Agriculture Committee, he is the only person from the Mid-Atlantic States from either party to serve on the Farm Bill Conference Committee.
  • On August 16, DEP’s Agricultural Advisory Board will convene.  Details: DEP’s Jay Braund 717-772-5636.

PA LEGISLATOR GETS NATIONAL NOD

PA Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) was named to the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which will give advice on telecommunications issues to that agency.  She is the only Pennsylvanian on this particular committee and is known for her bipartisan work (with Rep. Pam Snyder-D-Fayette/Greene/Washington) on a package of bills seeking to expand access to Broadband to rural areas.

RESOURCES FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS

  • AUGUST 6, 2018 Application period for Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) begins.  REAP provides tax credits to farmers, landowners, and businesses for implementing practices which increase efficiency while protecting natural resources.  REAP is a first-come, first-serve program.  Details: 717-705-4032 https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/StateConservationCommission/REAP/Pages/default.aspx
  • Food Safety Compliance: The PA Department of Agriculture is offering free on-farm readiness reviews to informally review areas of compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  FSMA Rules apply to farmers with produce operations above a certain threshold.  Details: 717-787-4315

 REGULATORY AGENDAS RELEASED

Each year, the Governor’s Office lists those regulations being considered by each government agency.  The full list is published in the PA Bulletin issue for August 4: www.pabulletin.com

The PA Agriculture Department (PDA) lists six regulations.

  • Agriculture Conservation Easement Purchase Program Regulations (#2-192) proposed September 2018; Regulatory contact is Douglas Wolfgang 717-783-3167
  • PA Preferred Program Regulations proposed September 2018; Regulatory contact is Laura England 717-783-8462
  • PA Vegetable Marketing Program (#2-185) October 2018 as a final rule; Regulatory contact is Bill Troxell 717-694-3596
  • Milk Sanitation (#2-191) regulation will allow PA raw milk/cheese producers to produce unpasteurized milk/cheese where there is a Federal identity for that cheese and the standard of identity allows for production of standardized cheese from raw milk proposed for September 2018; Regulatory contact is Lydia Johnson 717-787-4315 NOTE: This was posted in the August 4 PA Bulletin.

The two other PDA regulations are Rabies Prevention and Control (#2-188) and Weights and Measures (#2-187).

PennDOT has several.

  • Oversize and Overweight Loads and Vehicles (Automated Permit Routing Analysis System proposed Summer 2018; Regulatory contacts are Glenn Rowe PE 717-783-6479 and Jeffrey Spotts 717-787-5299
  • Hazardous Material Transportation Summer 2018 as final; Contacts are Rowe and Spotts
  • Hauling in Excess of Posted Weight Limits proposed Fall 2018; Contacts are Spotts and Halley Cole, PE 717-783-6146
  • Access to and Occupancy of Highways by Driveways and Local Roads. There are two. The first is meant to be a clarification of some parts of the application process – final in Summer 2018.  The second is meant as a major re-write of Chapter 441 (67 Pa. Code) to include comments received redefining the term “owner” (“legally cognizable ownership interests”).  Regulatory contacts for both are Spotts and Richard Roman, PE 717-6899.

The non-regulatory agenda for the PA Department of Environmental Protection was issued in July. The Agenda is available on the Department’s eLibrary web site at http://www.elibrary.dep.state.pa.us/dsweb/View/Collection-11958  (select ”Publications,” then ”Office of Policy,” then ”Non-Regulatory Agenda”).  Questions regarding the Agenda should be directed to Abbey Cadden, Technical Guidance Coordinator, Department of Environmental Protection, Policy Office, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101 at (717) 783-8727 or ra-epthepolicyoffice@pa.gov .

COMMEMORATIVES

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).

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.

FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in Kutztown DECEMBER 14

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact:  Vince Phillips 717-232-9665

FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in Kutztown DECEMBER 14

On Thursday, December 14, the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO), along with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, will be holding a community service seminar hosted by the Kutztown Grange.

The purpose of this seminar is to provide farmers and agriculture producers with information about their compliance requirements as laid out in the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  During the seminar, a discussion regarding risk management will also take place.  Topics that will be covered regarding risk management include: food safety, crop insurance and key questions farmers should ask insurance agents in order to make sure their specific needs are met.

The event is free of charge and will take place at the Kutztown Grange Hall located at Kemp and James Streets in Kutztown from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  A light lunch will be provided in the afternoon.

The workshop is being held with the acknowledgement and support of the Berks County State Senators and State Representatives

For more information about the event, please contact Vince Phillips at the PSCFO at 717-232-9665 or xenobun@aol.com  or former State Representative Lynn Herman at 814-880-2272 (cell) or lherman77@comcast.net.

 

AG ONE Newsletter September 26, 2017

SENATE SAYS NO: BUDGET STILL UNRESOLVED

On Wednesday, September 20, the PA Senate rejected a House-passed revenue bill (House Bill 453) by a vote of 43-7, thus paving the way for a Conference Committee where three House members and three Senators thrash out differences.  At issue is the Senate approach which included new taxes and the House version which had no new taxes but instead tapped about 50 dedicated funds to balance the State Budget.

Backdrop on the Senate Vote

Technically, the Senate vote was on a motion to non-concur with House amendments to House Bill 453.  The vote showed that the more conservative wing of the Republican Party has less influence in the more moderate Senate than it does in the House where conservatives were able to convince all but 15 Republicans to go for the no-tax option.  The seven Senators voting for the House approach were John DiSanto (Perry/Dauphin), John Eichelberger (Blair), Scott Hutchinson (Venango), Mike Regan (Cumberland), Pat Stefano (Westmoreland/Somerset/Fayette), Scott Martin (Lancaster), and Scott Wagner (York).  Stalwart Senate conservatives Michelle Brooks (Erie/Warren/Crawford/Mercer) and Mike Folmer (Lebanon/Dauphin) voted with the majority in opposing the House version.

What Happens Next

The PA House will be in session this week and things could begin to take shape.  Assuming that there is to be a Conference Committee, there may be jockeying for who represents the House in negotiations – will it be leadership or will it include a House member who is ideologically committed to no new taxes?  The Senate’s return is not scheduled until October 16 but they would come back sooner if there is something on which to vote.  An obvious point of disagreement is taking money from dedicated funds.  Should funds established for specific purposes be off-limits or should they be considered savings accounts which could be used in case of a fiscal crisis?

Dedicated Funds May Still Be In Play

With Senate rejection of the House amendments, a quick look would suggest that dedicated funds are safe, but ultimately, the final budget bill may include some taxes (Senate version) and some dedicated funds (House version).  The point here is that the Budget impasse is far from over!

PSCFO ACTS ON BUDGET

At the September 18 State Council meeting, PSCFO directed that a letter be sent to legislators asking them not to go after agricultural funds’ reserves (such as the Conservation District Fund) since doing so would cripple programs.  The letter went out September 19.

HOUSE & SENATE COMMITTEES TO MEET ON SPOTTED LANTERNFLY

On October 18, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee and the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will hold a joint hearing on efforts to contain the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly.  This invasive species has the potential to impact PA’s grape, tree fruit, plant nursery, hops, and logging industries.  Quarantines are now in effect for parts of Chester, Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties.  On September 23, the PA Bulletin updated a list of affected townships.

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol47/47-38/1577.html

STATE COUNCIL TAKES POLICY POSITIONS

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations endorsed two pieces of legislation at its September 18 meeting.  First is House Bill 544 (Moul-R-Adams).  It provides some liability protection to property owners who allow recreational use on their land (ATVs, etc.) who have added improvements.  The second piece of legislation is Senate Bill 740 (Aument-R-Lancaster).  It requires utilities to provide landline telephone service to rural areas since there is insufficient access to cell and Internet.  SB 740 maintains the current level of the Universal Service Fund through 2021.

UPCOMING

SENATE REAPPOINTS STATE CONSERVATION COMMISSION

On September 20, the PA Senate voted 50-0 to confirm reappointments to the State Conservation Commission.  These include Ronald J. Rohall from Ligonier, Ronald E. Kopp, Middletown, and Michael Flinchbaugh, York.  Included in the same vote were two reappointments to the State Board of Auctioneers, Nevin Rentzel from York and Sherman Hostetter, Jr. from Beaver.

AG ONE Newsletter May 17, 2017

REDDING TAKES AIM AT HOUSE BILL 218

At a May 10 hearing of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding warned legislators that the House Republican State Budget bill (House Bill 218) could endanger a number of core PDA functions:

  • A $2 million cut from what Governor Wolf proposed in February
  • Losing 21 positions in areas such as restaurant health and safety inspections
  • $407,000 less for the Nutrient Management Fund, leaving the fund in a deficit position by mid-2019
  • Conservation district cuts ($130,000 from PDA and $376,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection budget) could force districts to cut positions and services.

Secretary Redding also sent a letter to the General Assembly stating much of what was in his May 10 testimony, a link to which follows: http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Pages/Letter-to-Legislature.aspx

REAL ID PROGRESSING

On May 10, Senate Bill 133 (Ward-R-Westmoreland) was referred to the House Appropriations Committee after a contentious session of the House State Government Committee which amended the bill along party lines May 8.  This legislation brings PA into compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005, a Federal law requiring an upgrade to state systems of personal identification.  If PA does not comply with legislation in June, the consequence is that a driver’s license will NOT be accepted as identification on boarding commercial flights or providing access to Federal offices (Social Security, Farm Services Agency, military bases, etc.) in 2018.  The issue was an amendment in the House State Government Committee creating a two-tier system which allows Pennsylvanians to keep and use current ID if they choose.  Anyone going for the upgrade would have to pay for it, cost unknown.

POLLINATOR ISSUES SUBJECT OF STATE FORUM

On May 22, the Joint Legislative Conservation Committee will hold an Environmental Issues Forum in Harrisburg to profile Pennsylvania’s bee decline and its impact on agriculture.  For example, PA fruit crops depend on pollination with over 90% of the apple crop relying on honeybees.  The session will also look at ways to reverse the bees’ decline.  Details: Mike Nerozzi 717-787-7570, mnerozzi@jcc.legis.state.pa.us

OTHER LEGISLATION OF INTEREST

  • Fair Dealership Act legislation was introduced by Rep. Will Tallman (R-Cumberland/Adams).  House Bill 1348 is the top priority of PSCFO member Northeast Equipment Dealers Association.  The group argues that the bill is necessary to ensure accessibility to equipment options for agriculture producers.  On May 14, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations wrote to House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Majority Chair Martin Causer (R-McKean/Potter/Cameron) and Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) asking for prompt committee consideration of the legislation.
  • New Senator John DiSanto’s (R-Dauphin/Perry) first major legislation was reported out by the Senate Rules Committee May 8.  Senate Bill 561 gives the General Assembly veto power over any regulation with an economic impact to the Commonwealth, its’ units of government, or the private sector exceeding one million dollars.  The legislative language suggests that Notices in the PA Bulletin, a less formal way to implementing policies, would not be governed by this bill.  Often, an agency will use Notices to inform as to its policy or change in policy.

GAME COMMISSION PROPOSES RULES

On May 13, the PA Game Commission published several proposed rules in the May 13 PA Bulletin, the links to which follow: Hunting and trapping; general ; Lands and buildings—special wildlife management areas; hunting and furtaker licenses—antlerless deer licenses ; Special permits; deer control

APPLE GROWERS ADOPT APPLE PROGRAM

Announced by the PA Department of Agriculture May 6 were results from an April referendum as to whether PA should reinstitute its Apple Program. The vote was 103 producers for and 48 against with six ballots ruled ineligible.  Link to the text of the Program Order follows: http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol47/47-18/770.html

FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in TAMAQUA JUNE 1st

In conjunction with Schuylkill County’s legislative delegation and with financial support from the PA Department of Agriculture, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations is offering a no-cost seminar on Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance to produce farmers in the region. Held June 1 in Tamaqua, It will 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.  Details: 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com. Thanks to PSCFO members such as PA Vegetable Growers Association, PA State Grange, PA Association of Conservation Districts, PennAG Industries Association, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, and others for helping spread the word.   Also, PSCFO member PA Farmers Union is planning FSMA compliance webinars.  Details: www.pafarmersnion.org

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.

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.

Deadlines, Deadlines…

  • Calendar-iconFebruary 24, 2015: deadline to submit pre-proposals for USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants for “environmental markets and conservation projects that engage agricultural producers.”  Details: http://go.usa.gov/4Kvx  Sylvia Rainford 202/720-2536.
  • February 27, 2015 deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program for ranchers and forest landowners.  Applications should be submitted to local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offices.  Details: www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted
  • February 27, 2015, deadline to submit Federal Specialty Crop Block Grant proposals to Morgan Sheffield, PDA Bureau of Market Development 717/787-3568.
  • March 2, 2015: Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for “projects that promote environmental stewardship and economic development in the state.”  Projects must have been completed between August 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014.  Example areas:  Innovative Technology; Energy Solutions; Environmental Education; Watershed Restoration.  Only electronic nominations (including self) will be accepted. Details: http://files.dep.state.pa.us/AboutDEP/AwardsAndInnovation/GovernorAwardForEnvExcellence/2015%20GAEE%20Guidelines%20Final.pdf
  • March 9, 2015:  deadline for Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program.  REAP provides tax credits to agricultural producers who install best management practices or purchase on-farm no-till equipment that reduces soil erosion and sedimentation in PA’s streams and rivers.  Applications are available at www.pda.state.pa.us/REAP under ‘Forms’ or Joel Semke, State Conservation Commission 717/705-4032.
  • March 15, 2015: Crop Insurance enrollment deadline for new AGR-Lite whole farm revenue new applications; spring barley, corn, forage seeding (spring), grain sorghum, oats (spring), soybeans, tobacco.  (Thanks to Penn State Professor of Agricultural Economics Jayson Harper)   PDA contact is Jordan Stasyszn 717/6901
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