AG ONE Newsletter June 26, 2020

Dear Reader:

As the following article states, there have been leadership changes in the PA House of Representatives following former Speaker Turzai’s resignation.  This new leadership certainly helps to keep Agriculture as a visible priority.  Speaker Cutler is from Lancaster County.  Majority Leader Benninghoff is from Centre County while Majority Whip Oberlander represents Clarion/Forest/Armstrong Counties. Ag Committee Chair Marty Causer is the new Majority Policy Committee Chair. If you would like to congratulate Rep. Causer, his email is mcauser@pahousegop.com.

Sincerely, Vince Phillips    ******************************************

AG CHAIR ASSUMES NEW LEADERSHIP ROLE

PA House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Marty Causer (R-Cameron/Potter/McKean) was elected to the position of Majority (Republican) Policy Committee Chair as part of leadership selections following the resignation of former Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) on June 15.  The Policy Committee convenes regional hearings on topics of interest to legislators and taxpayers. Causer succeeds Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) in that position.  Other leadership changes include:

  • Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) is the new Speaker of the House.
  • Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre) was elected Majority Leader, succeeding Rep. Cutler.
  • Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) was elected as Majority Whip, succeeding Rep. Benninghoff.

These leaders will serve until the end of this legislative session in November.  Then, they may choose to run for re-election in the session of 2021-22.

ASSISTANCE FOR DAIRY FARMERS

Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers adversely impacted by COVID-19 mitigation efforts can now apply for a share of $40 million in funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Any dairy farm that experienced financial losses due to discarded or displaced milk during the COVID-19 emergency disaster has until Sept. 30 to apply for assistance. The funding includes:

$15 million in direct relief payments.
$5 million to reimburse dairy farmers who participate in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) program by donating excess dairy product.
$15 million for the State Food Purchase Program, which provides cash grants to counties for the purchase and distribution of food to low-income individuals.
$5 million to reimburse the agriculture industry for costs involved in harvesting, processing, packaging and transporting food that they donate.  Click here for more information.

BROADBAND BILLS MOVE

On June 22, the Senate Communications & Technology Committee favorably reported bills advancing access to high-speed Broadband.  Two of them, House Bill 2438 (Owlett-R-Bradford/Tioga/Potter) and Senate Bill 1118 (Pittman-R-Indiana/Armstrong), would make it easier for rural electric cooperatives to use existing electrical lines to provide Broadband.  The third bill, Senate Bill 835 (Langerholc-R-Cambria/Clearfield/Bedford), establishes the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program which would be managed by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Not acted upon at the committee meeting was House Bill 2348 sponsored by Rep. Marty Causer (R-McKean/Potter/Cameron).  It would redirect monies from a tax credit fund into a Broadband matching grant program.  It passed the PA House 202-0 on June 10.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • Ensuring distribution of Fair Fund dollars to County Fairs (Senate Bill 1182 sponsored by Senator Michele Brooks (R-Mercer/Erie/Warren/Crawford) was reported out by the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on June 23.  The committee also reported out: Senate Bill 881 (Martin-R-Lancaster) to allow access to public farm preservation funds by land trusts; House Bill 441 (Sonney-R-Erie) to allow preserved farms of 50-plus acres to grant a right of way to install a wind power generation system; and House Bill 2435 (Kosierowski-D-Lackawanna) to assist food processing plants by providing reimbursement for the purchase of personal protection gear (coronavirus).
  • Senate Bill 1030 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) was signed into law as Act 34 of 2020.  It reaffirms the ability to install specialized septic systems called ‘alternate systems.
  • House Bill 102 (Maloney-R-Berks) was signed into law as Act 27 of 2020.  It allows access to after-hour schools for hunting education.
  • Presented to the Governor for his signature on June 24 was House Bill 1118 (Wentling-R-Lawrence/Mercer/Crawford/Erie) to remove restrictions on the use of thermal and night vision equipment for hunting.

CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS      

  • August’s big agricultural event, AG Progress Days, is cancelled (coronavirus).
  • The next meeting of the Penn State Ag Council will take place on October 15, 2020.  Details: Geremy Kephart 814-863-2822.
  • National All-American Dairy Show that was scheduled to begin September 12, 2020, has been cancelled.  The 2021 dates are September 18-21.  Details: aads@pa.gov.
  • The 2020 Maryland Commodity Classic on July 23 will no longer be a person to person event.  Details on this Virtual event: MD Grain Producers Association 443-262-8491; Lindsay.mdag@gmail.com.
  • The PA Friends of Agriculture Foundation’s Educators’ Ag Institute is offering five free online workshops starting July 9.  These will help educators incorporate agriculture into their curriculum.  Emphasis will be on specific lessons and tools they can use in their classroom.  Educators who attend all sessions can earn up to twenty Act 48 credits.  Details: Charlene Espenshade, cmespenshade@pfb.com.  This replaces the in-person Ag Institute workshops that were cancelled due to the coronavirus.

 

PSCFO AG DIRECTORY REMINDER Some quantities are available free of charge to PSCFO members.  Details: xenobun@aol.com.

AG ONE Newsletter April 20, 2020

Dear Reader:

Today, Governor Wolf announced the easing of some restrictions.  Hopefully, that marks the beginning of the end of the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis which has decimated much of Pennsylvania’s Agriculture economy. The stay at home order has been extended until May 8.

Sincerely, Vince Phillips    ******************************************

NEW GRANT OPPORTUNITY FOR FARMERS, PROCESSORS

Between April 20 and 24, businesses with 250 employees or less involved in production and processing foods may apply for up to a $15,000 grant from Giant Foods.  Details:

https://teampa.com/giant-ag-grants/.

GOVERNOR LOOSENS SOME BUSINESS RESTRICTIONS

On April 20, Governor Tom Wolf announced several measures designed to loosen the March business closing edict issued in March. Construction may resume May 8.  Links follow:

Governor’s Business Amendment
Health Secretary’s Business Amendment
Online Car Sales Guidance
Updated Industry Operation Guidance
Updated Industry Operation FAQ

Remote notarization (important to auto and farm equipment sales and farm credit) is included as part of Senate Bill 841 which was signed into law as Act 15 of 2020.by Governor Wolf.

CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS      

  • The May 11 PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) Board and Council are cancelled.
  • FFA’s annual summer Washington Leadership Conference is cancelled.  Dates of the National FFA Convention & Exposition remain Oct. 28-31 in Indianapolis.
  • The Penn State. Trustee election by agricultural interests has been postponed, date to be announced.  Details: 814-865-9561 or sll5@psu.edu.
  • American Guernsey Association’s June 2020 convention in Seven Springs is cancelled. The 2021 date is June 12-15, again at Seven Springs.
  • PA Cattlemens’ Association evaluation of a new date for its annual convention will be announced after May 1st.  Details: 717-825-9824, pca@pacattlemen.org .
  • The April 23 in-person meeting of the Legislative Task Force & Advisory Committee on High-Speed Broadband Services is cancelled. The next meeting will be remote May 8.

PUC ISSUES PHONE SUBSIDY REMINDER

The PA Utility Commission (PUC) issued a reminder to those under the Federal Poverty Guidelines that they are eligible for Federal subsidies on their land line telephone or Internet service.  Current amounts are $7.25 monthly for landline or wireless and $9.25 for Broadband, fixed or mobile.   Yearly income eligibility is $17,226 for one person, $23,274 for two, $29,322 for three, $35,370 for four persons and $6,048 per person thereafter. How to apply:  Lifeline Telephone and Broadband Assistance Program www.kifelinesupport.org or 1-800-234-9473.

The PUC reports that Verizon has the Lifeline 100 program offering an additional $2.50 subsidy.

LEGISLATIVE UDATES

While the General Assembly is focused on coping with COVID-19, for example passing legislation to rescind Governor Wolf’s business closure decree Senate Bill 613 (Mensch-R-Bucks/Berks/Montgomery) vetoed April 20 and Senate Bill 327 (Argall-R-Schuylkill/Berks), there were other actions affecting rural PA.

  • Legislation requiring business interruption insurance policies to cover losses caused by COVID-19 was introduced by Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.).  Senate Bill 1114 was referred to the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee April 15.  A companion bill, House Bill 2372 (Dermody-D-Allegheny) was introduced and referred to the House Insurance Committee April 3.
  • Senate Bill 1097 (Mastriano-R-Franklin) would make the temporary OK on remote notarization permanent.  Status: Reported out by the Senate Appropriations Committee April 15.
  • House Bill 1869 (Owlett-R-Tioga/Potter/Bradford) would relax some of the staffing requirements for emergency medical services – something potentially important in hard-pressed rural areas.  It was reported out by the Senate Appropriations Committee April 15.

PSCFO AG DIRECTORY REMINDER

The PSCFO Agricultural Directory for 2020 has been released.  Some quantities are available free of charge to PSCFO members, the media, and public officials.  For non-members and others, there will be a modest charge for shipping and handling.  Please advise PSCFO by emailing xenobun@aol.com.

USDA ANNOUNCES RURAL COVID-19 RESOURCES

  • USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant proposals are due by June 15, 2020.
  • Until September 30, 2020, lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for USDA Business & Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, and Water & Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees.
  • USDA issued the COVID-19 Federal Rural Resources Guide on April 13.  It is billed as a one-stop-shop of Federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations, and individuals affected by the COVID-19 epidemic.

TO NOTE…Penn State Center for Pollinator Research has a new website containing educational lesson plans relating to ecology and habitat.  Might this be an at-home educational resource?  Details:  https://ento.psu.edu/pollinators/resources-and-outreach/materials-for-k-12-classroom.

State Council Endorses Two Bills

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 9, 2020

Vince Phillips 717-232-9665  xenobun@aol.com

HARRISBURG…The State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) endorsed two pieces of legislation benefiting rural Pennsylvania at its Annual Meeting held February 5 in Harrisburg.

They are:

House Bill 1123 sponsored by Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester).  This would establish Dairy Keystone Opportunity Zones to incentivize investment in regional dairy processing facilities.  This means that PA dairy farmers would have the chance to develop their own processing to create another source of income.  In addition, transportation of fluid milk would be cheaper.  A third benefit is that PA-produced milk that is processed in PA means a larger over-order premium paid to dairy farmers.   The legislation passed the House and now awaits action by the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

House Bill 2055 sponsored by Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington).  This bill adds Broadband expansion to the list of approved critical infrastructure under the Municipal Authorities Act.  That means rural communities would have the authority to be their own Internet Service Provider (ISP) if telecommunications companies delay upgrading service to these underserved local areas.  The legislation is currently in the House Local Government Committee.

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The PA State Council of Farm Organization is made up of numerous Pennsylvania agricultural organizations who have banded together to be a stronger advocate for Pennsylvania Agriculture.

AG ONE Newsletter January 1, 2020

PSCFO ANNUAL MEETING IS FEBRUARY 4

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) is meeting on Tuesday February 4 at the State Capitol.  This is also the day when Governor Tom Wolf presents a proposed budget for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2020.  The date of our meeting underscores the importance of Agriculture receiving necessary state resources.  PSCFO members attending the Council meeting will hear presentations on public policy issues, receive updates from institutions of higher learning and maybe, we will get a peek at some of the proposals that build on last year’s successful passage of the PA Farm Bill.

Here are times and locations for February 4.

10:00 – 12:00 noon    Board of Directors    Room 4 East Wing (conference room adjacent to Rep. Mike Tobash’ office)

1:00 – 3:30 p.m.         Council meeting in Room 31-B near the cafeteria and below the Main Rotunda)

4:30 -6:30 p.m.           Cornucopia: A Taste of Pennsylvania Legislative Reception held in the Main Rotunda on the west side of the Capitol Complex. 

DAIRY HELP BILLS PASS HOUSE

The House voted December 17, 2019 for two dairy aid bills sponsored by Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester).  House Bill 1223 establishes regional Keystone Opportunity Dairy Zones (KOZs) to provide tax breaks for those investing in milk processing facilities.  House Bill 1224 authorizes the PA Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) to work with the Revenue Department to more accurately identify retail milk sales.  By law, PA has a minimum retail price which includes monies which should go to PA dairy farmers.  It is hard to track the money; hence the need for HB 1224.  Rep. Lawrence spoke to PSCFO at its November meeting.  HB 1223 and HB 1224 were referred to the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on December 26.

TELEMEDICINE BILL HITS ABORTION SNAG

Legislation setting up standards for telemedicine has stalled despite an initial Senate vote of 47-1.  At issue was language added in the House which was interpreted as restricting access to abortion services.  Contrasted to the Senate vote, the House split 111-77 on the bill. Senate Bill 857 (Vogel-R-Beaver) is especially important to rural areas with smaller numbers of health care providers and longer distances to go when receiving medical care.  Telemedicine is seen as a way to provide better access to treatment.  The bill includes a requirement that health insurance companies reimburse health care providers for both in-person and telemedicine services without discriminating against telemedicine claims payments.  In addition, SB 857 specifically prohibits health insurers from disallowing payment solely because a health care service is provided by telemedicine.

It was referred to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee. Following is a link to the latest version of the bill.  Click on Printers Number 1388.

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2019&sInd=0&body=S&type=B&bn=0857

SELECTED FARM SHOW ITEMS  A full Farm Show schedule is available at https://www.farmshow.pa.gov/pafarmshow/plan/schedule/Pages/default.aspx.   There are several events that involve legislative policy affecting rural Pennsylvanians:

  • Tuesday 1:00 p.m. Erie Room:  Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing on implementation of the PA Farm Bill.
  • Wednesday 9:00 a.m. in the Allegheny Room:  House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee hearing on issues of concern to several agriculture groups including PA Farm Bureau, PA State Grange, PA Assn. for Sustainable Agriculture, PA Farmers Union, and PennAg Industries Association.
  • Wednesday 9:00 a.m. in the Erie Room: Informational briefing on the Chesapeake Bay held by the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.
  • Thursday 9:00 a.m. in the Monongahela Room:  A panel discussion on rural Broadband access convened by PA State Grange.

PURPLE PAINT LAW

Sponsored by Rep. Dawn Keefer (R-York), House Bill 1772 was signed into law by Governor Wolf as Act 103 of 2019 on November 27.  This law gives property owners the option of using purple paint as an alternative to traditional no trespassing signs.  Paint strips may be applied to trees or fence posts. Strips must be at least 8” long and 1” wide between three and five feet off the ground.  The new law takes effect January 27, 2020.

PENNSYLVANIA AGRICULTURAL WOMEN HONORED in 2019

  • Dr. MeeCee Baker (Versant Strategies) was honored as an outstanding woman in the profession of Agricultural Education during the National FFA’s convention.
  • Carol Ann Gregg of Mercer County was presented with PA Farm Bureau’s Outstanding Women in Agriculture Award at PFB’s annual convention.

DON’T FORGET DEDICATION TO AGRICULTURE NOMINATIONS

The PSCFO Dedication to Agriculture Award deadline for applications is January 15, 2020 with the presentation made at the February 4 Cornucopia reception in the Main Rotunda.  Details: 717-232-9665 or xenobun@aol.com.

AG ONE Newsletter November 12, 2019

HOUSE PASSES MODIFIED SUNDAY HUNTING

Th PA House of Representatives passed Sunday hunting in a 144-54 vote on October 30.  Senate Bill 147 (Laughlin-R-Eroe0 now authorizes three Sundays for hunting, one with firearms, one with archery, and one to be determined by the PA Game Commission.  An earlier House committee amendment was a provision requiring written permission from the property owner before hunting could take place.  On the House floor, four additional amendments were added to: make the bill effective in 90 days instead of immediately (NOTE:  Sunday hunting will NOT take place this year.); authorize use of local law enforcement to assist with trespassing complaints if needed; allowing an unarmed  person to enter posted property to retrieve a hunting dog; and a technical amendment. The bill now goes back to the Senate seeking concurrence with the House amendments.  The Senate returns November 18.  Following is a link to the roll call vote:

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/RC/Public/rc_view_action2.cfm?sess_yr=2019&sess_ind=0&rc_body=H&rc_nbr=815 .

HOUSE AG COMMITTEE MOVES DAIRY BILLS

On October 23, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported out two dairy aid bills sponsored by Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester).  House Bill 1223 establishes regional Keystone Opportunity Dairy Zones (KOZs) to provide tax breaks for those investing in new milk processing facilities (or expanding existing facilities).  House Bill 1224 authorizes the PA Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) to work with the Revenue Department to more accurately identify retail milk sales.  By law, PA has a minimum retail price which includes monies which should go to PA dairy farmers.  It is hard to track the money; hence the need for HB 1224.

At the committee meeting, House Bill 1755 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster) was also reported out.  This would mandate that the State Conservation Commission submit a number of required reports to the General Assembly.  House Bill 918 (Schmitt-R-Blair) was also reported from committee.  It repeals an 1857 law which established state funding for the ‘Farmers’ High School’, a precursor to the Pennsylvania State university.

SENATE PASSES TELEMEDICINE BILL

By a 47-1 vote on October 30, the PA Senate passed Senate Bill 857 (Vogel-R-Beaver) setting up standards for use of telemedicine.  Especially important to rural areas with smaller numbers of health care providers and longer distances to go when receiving medical care, telemedicine is seen as a way to provide better access to treatment.  The bill includes a requirement that health insurance companies will reimburse health care providers for both in-person and telemedicine services in accord without discriminating against telemedicine claims payments.  In addition, SB 857 specifically prohibits health insurers from disallowing payment solely because a health care service is provided by telemedicine.  It was referred to the House Insurance Committee where it joins House Bill 15 (Readshaw-D-Allegheny) and House Bill 872 (Day-R-Lehigh/Berks).

Previously, House Resolution 193 (McNeill-D-Northampton) was adopted by the House on June 4 directing the Joint State Government Commission to do a study on the shortage of mental health care providers and what telemedicine might do to reduce the lack of access to these services.

GRANT DEADLINES

  • Due by November19: Agriculture & Youth Organization Grant Program was created by the PA Farm Bill to provide grants to eligible agriculture and youth organizations for projects such as educational programs, work force development programs, eligible seminars and field trips, agricultural safety programs, capital projects, equipment purchases and special projects as approved.  Details: Morgan Sheffield 717-787-3568

http://www.pacodeandbulletin.gov/Display/pabull?file=/secure/pabulletin/data/vol49/49-43/1582.html.

  • December 2 is the closing date for applications for the State-level Specialty Crop Grant Program made possible by the PA Farm Bill enacted over the summer.  In addition to Federally-recognized specialty crops, the PA grant program also recognizes hemp, hops, hardwood, honey, and barley/rye/wheat for distilling, brewing and malting.  Details:  Ashley Fehr 717-803-1452, or www.esa.dced.state.pa.us/login.aspx.

DATES & REMINDERS

  • November 15 is the deadline for the 2019 Soybean Yield Contest to receive harvest yield reports.  Forms are available from the PA Soybean Board at www.pasoybean.org.
  • November 20 the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee has scheduled an informational meeting on activities of county conservation districts.
  • Dairy Margin Coverage enrollment ends December 13, 2019.
  • December 2019 has Extension Soybean Production Workshops scheduled; December 10, Fulton County; December 12, Luzerne County; December 17, Juniata County; and December 19 in Lycoming County.  Details: 877-345-0691, www.extension.psu.edu/soybean-production.

FARMER SAFETY ADVISORY

Emergency Email & Wireless Critical News newsletter reports that John Deere issued a safety recall for compact utility tractors sold between October 2016 through September 2019 (recall Number 20-706).  Owners can get their tractors fixed free of charge at a John Deere dealer.     (Model 4044R Serial Numbers 400284 -401619; Model 4052R, Serial Numbers 400381-403424; and Model 4066R, Serial Numbers 401588-407220)

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 April 2, 2019

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; deberly@pa.gov.)   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).

 

COMING UP…

  • 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.

AG ONE Newsletter February 11, 2019

Dear Reader:

On February 5, Governor Tom Wolf presented his proposal for the State Budget beginning July 1, 2019.  Although helpful to Agriculture with level or even increased funding in many areas, there were also cuts that the General Assembly will examine.  Now starts the Appropriations Committee hearings which can be seen on PA Cable Network.  The PA Department of Agriculture hearings are scheduled for March 5 at 10:00 a.m. (House Appropriations Committee) and March 6 at 1:00 p.m. (Senate Appropriations Committee).  Sincerely, Vince Phillips

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BUDGET

Shortly, expect to see a special edition of AG ONE Newsletter which focuses on the 2019-20 State Budget proposal advanced by Governor Wolf

PSCFO NEWS:  LEADERSHIP

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) comprised of 70 agricultural and commodity groups, selected leadership for 2019 at its Annual Meeting in Harrisburg February 5, 2019.  Elected officers are:

  • President Gregg Robertson who represents the PA Landscape & Nursery Association
  • Vice President:  Timothy Wentz, representing the Northeast Equipment Dealers’ Association
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Kurt Fuchs, representing MidAtlantic Farm Credit.

Jeff Nogan, representing PA Cattlemen, automatically becomes Immediate Past President and serves as a member of the PSCFO Executive Committee. In addition, chosen were three members of the Board of Directors.  They are:

  • Eugene Richard, representing Mushroom Farmers of PA
  • Rick Leese, representing the PA Farm Bureau
  • Judy Mohn, representing the PA Cooperative Potato Growers Association

PSCFO NEWS:  DEDICATION TO AGRICULTURE AWARD

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations presented the 2019 PSCFO Dedication to Agriculture Award to cattleman conservationist Jim Cowell, a long-time Farmer in Greene County.  Presenting the Award were PSCFO President Gregg Robertson, PA Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Fayette/Greene/Washington), Katrina Hanna, Chief of Staff for Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Greene/Beaver/Washington), and PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding.  In addition to the PSCFO Dedication to Agriculture Award, Mr. Cowell received congratulatory Citations from the PA State Senate and from the PA House of Representatives. 

PSCFO Dedication to Agriculture Award criteria are based on one or more of the following:

  • Service with a significant economic or social impact on rural Pennsylvania
  • Service affecting PA Agriculture generally  or service making a vital difference in one part 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 PA Agriculture
  • Service providing a greater awareness of agriculture’s importance to the general public

SUNDAY HUNTING LEGISLATION MOVES THROUGH SENATE COMMITTEE

The Senate Game & Fisheries Committee on February 4 reported out Senate Bill 147 sponsored by Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) to allow Sunday hunting.  The vote was not unanimous, 8 for and 3 against.  Opponents to the legislation include PA Farm Bureau and PA State Grange as well as groups which are concerned about possible injuries to non-hunter recreational users.  Supporting the legislation are the PA Game Commission, sportsman groups, and the National Rifle Association.  SB 147 was amended in committee to include an analysis by the PA Budget and Finance Committee on PA Game Commission fees, fines, penalties, costs, land purchases, etc.

LEGISLATION

  • On February 4, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported out Senate Bill 145 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) amending the Agricultural Area Security Law to allow farmers of protected farmland to voluntarily relinquish their right to construct an additional residence.  This would allow them to minimize their property taxes.
  • Adopted by both House and Senate were Resolutions commending the work of the FFA (House Resolution 45 sponsored by Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry) and Senate Resolution 21 sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver).  Each was adopted by their respective chamber February 4.
  • Adopted by the Senate was Senate Resolution 25 sponsored by Senator Don White (R-Indiana) proclaiming February as PA Mutual Insurance Companies Month.  This was Senator White’s last sponsored legislation before his retirement.  Many of the PA Mutual insurance companies were founded to meet farmers’ insurance needs.

POLITICS:  STATE

  • The Senate will shortly have three vacancies to be filled by special election.  First is the Washington/Allegheny County district held by former Senator Guy Reschenthaler who was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2018.  Others are Senator Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) and Senator Don White (R-Indiana) who close out their Senate careers February 28..
  • The House has two special elections scheduled for May 21, primary day.  They are to fill the seats of former Rep. Vanessa Brown (D-Phila.) who resigned and Sid Kavulich (D-Lackawanna), a member of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, who died shortly before the 2018 election.
  • Although vigorously denying accusations of sexual misconduct and suing the accuser, Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) relinquished his position as Minority Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee as a way to recuse himself from any relevant legislation.

COMING UP…The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will have an informational meeting February 20 to discuss agricultural issues with PDA Secretary Russell Redding.

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.

AGOne Newsletter October 25, 2018

Dear Reader:

On Wednesday October 17, the PA General Assembly ended its legislative work for the 2017-18 session.  This term for legislators continues until November 30 and the House and Senate will return one day in November to elect new leaders for the new 2019-20 session.  Now the focus is on the election less than two weeks away.  When voting, ask yourself who has a farming background?  Who understands issues that rural PA faces? Re the voting itself, please do. The alternative is that someone may get elected who does not share your views on Broadband expansion, help for the Dairy industry, farmland preservation, etc.  Sincerely, Vince Phillips

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SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR

  • House Bill 1346 sponsored by Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong/Indiana/Butler) was signed into law as Act 78 of 2018.  It bans drone flying over restricted areas (correctional institutions) and where there is an intentional invasion of privacy.

WITH THE GOVERNOR

  • House Bill 544 (Moul-R-Adams) limits liability for property owners who permit recreational use of property where no admission fee is charged.
  • Senate Bill 1171 (Brooks-R-Mercer/Crawford/Warren/Erie) seeks to make regulatory oversight of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) easier for farmers by allowing for active consultation on rule-making with the Farm Animal Advisory Board.  Two members must have active CAFO permits. 
  • House Bill 2157 (Grove-R-York) codifies classification of instructional vocational technical programs and directs the Commission for Agriculture Education Excellence to issue guidelines under which a student may apply credit towards completion of an agriculture education program.
  • House Bill 1216 (Farry-R-Bucks) permits rescues of dogs and cats from closed cars in hot conditions.  It also establishes what amounts to an animal’s Bill of Rights (although the bill does not use that phrase).  A person commits an offense if he/she does not provide for basic needs of food and water, clean and sanitary shelter and protection from the weather, and necessary veterinary care.

SENATE ADOPTS AG RESOLUTIONS

Senate Resolution 418 sponsored by Senator Michele Brooks (R-Crawford/Mercer/Warren/Erie) urges the U.S. Congress and USDA to include milk in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.  Senate Resolution 421 sponsored by Senator Sharif Street (D-Phila.) urges the U.S. Congress to remove commercial industrial hemp from the Schedule 1 Controlled Substance list. 

ALMOST TO THE FINISH LINE

Several bills simply ran out of time before seeing final action by the General Assembly.  Next year, they can be re-introduced although they will likely have different bill numbers.

  • Sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), Senate Bill 1237 would have established the Rural Health Redesign Center, a public-private partnership to help rural hospitals upgrade care and address solvency issues.  It made it past the Senate and ended up in the House Health Committee.
  • House Bill 1550 (Klunk-R-York) would have allowed for voluntary relinquishment of a preserved farmland’s additional residence provision.  It passed the House and made it as far as the Senate voting calendar before the session ended.
  • House Resolution 429 would have established a special legislative task force on delivery of high-speed Broadband for rural areas and would have had the Joint State Government Commission create an advisory committee to conduct a study of delivery of high-speed Broadband in underserved areas.  It was part of a four bill bipartisan Broadband package sponsored by Representatives Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington).  It reached the House calendar but was not voted on.

PDA ANNOUNCES FY 2018-19 FAIR FUNDING

On October 20, the PA Department of Agriculture announced its annual plan for awarding grants under the PA Agricultural Fair Act. for agricultural fairs, statewide Ag organizations which contribute to the development of agriculture and agribusiness, and to 4-H and FFA.  Applications for Fair Reimbursements from statewide Organizations, and FFA/4-H reimbursements for FY 2017-18 are due to PDA by November 15, 2018.   

https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Business_Industry/pafairfund/Pages/default.aspx

NASS NEWS

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported on the response rate by farmers for the 2017 Census of Agriculture.  Pennsylvania was ranked 8th nationally with a 75.15 percent response rate.  The national response rate was 71.5 percent.  In all, more than 67,000 questionnaires were mailed to Pennsylvanians.  In another development, NASS announced that it is collecting data from vegetable growers from October 25 to December 20, 2018, with results reported in the Annual Vegetable Release February 12, 2019.  The research will obtain final acreage production and value of sales for fresh and processed vegetables.  Details: King Whetstone 717-787-3904; king.whetstone@usda.gov.

REGULATORY UPDATE

The PA Department of Agriculture issued a new organizational chart October 13 in the PA Bulletin, https://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol48/48-41/1588.html, as did the PA Game Commission https://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol48/48-41/1589.html.

CORRECTION:  The last issue of AG ONE Newsletter contained an error spotted by Kerry Golden, Executive Director, House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  Accurately stated, Act 77 of 2018 (House Bill 1917) dealing with humane society police DOES NOT subject humane societies to the Right To Know Law.  Please accept an apology if the error caused confusion. 

REST IN PEACE… Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich (D-Lackawanna) died from complications relating to recent heart surgery.  He was a member of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

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