AG ONE Newsletter June 29, 2018

FARMLAND PROTECTION BILL SIGNED INTO LAW

On June 24, Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 2468 into law as Act 45 of 2018.  This legislation restricts school districts and townships from seizing preserved farmland without justifying (no other available options) the acquisition before the county’s Orphan’s Court.  HB 2468 addresses two separate school district actions in Cumberland and Montgomery Counties.  The bill was sponsored by Representatives Warren Kampf, Marcy Toepel, and Kate Harper, all Montgomery County Republicans.

AGRI-TOURISM BILLS MOVE

Sponsored by Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), bills limiting liability for farmers engaged in agri-tourism or agri-entertainment are continuing their movement in the PA General Assembly.  Senate Bill 819 which defines agri-tourism passed the Senate June 18 by a 48-0 vote and was referred to the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee June 20.  Companion Senate Bill 820 which provides limited liability immunity was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is on the Senate’s calendar.

HOUSE ADOPTS PENNVEST AUDIT RESOLUTION

On June 22, the PA House adopted House Resolution 948 calling upon State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to audit records of the PA Infrastructure Investment Authority, also known as PENNVEST, as they relate to nonpoint source program projects.  According to prime sponsor Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), “many questions have been raised about transactions in which PENNVEST financed the purchase of 60,000 acres of private forest land in north central and northwestern PA.”

SENATE APPROVES NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT BILL

The Senate voted 49-0 on June 20 for Senate Bill 1171 (Brooks-R-Mercer/Crawford/Erie/Warren) to create the Farm Animal Advisory Board as a replacement for the Nutrient Management Advisory Board so as to provide greater input by animal farmers in the regulatory process concerning nutrient compliance rules.

SELECTED LEGISLATIVE ITEMS

  • Approved by the Senate 48-0 on June 18 were two members of the PA Milk Marketing Board, Robert Barley and Carol Hardbarger.  Barley was also appointed to USDA’s National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board by Secretary Sonny Perdue on June 19.
  • Signed into law as Act 43 of 2018 by Governor Wolf on June 22 was House Bill 2477 (Watson-R-Bucks) furthering research in medical marijuana.
  • Adopted by the PA House was House Resolution 971 proclaiming “Pollinator Week” in PA (Matzie D-Allegheny/Beaver).  Adopted by the Senate was Senate Resolution 403 (Aument-R-Lancaster) declaring June as “Dairy Month” in PA.

DAIRY RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY SENATE

Another piece of legislation sponsored by Senator Aument was adopted by the PA Senate June 18.  Senate Resolution 382 calls upon the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to prevent labeling products billing themselves as “milk” from using that term unless they are true dairy.  This would include products such as soy, almond, and most recently peas from marketing with the term “milk” when they are not dairy products.

The second resolution adopted June 18 is Senate Resolution 384 sponsored by Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Minority Chair, Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  SR 384 directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to identify and examine the statutes, best practices and proposed measures of other States to provide assistance to dairy producers during these economic times. The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee will also identify the number and types of specialty dairy products, such as lactose free milk, that are sold in the Commonwealth by out of state dairy producers and examine how milk produced in the Commonwealth can be utilized to meet the increased demand for this specialty dairy products market.”  (Source:  Sen. Schwank’s sponsorship memo)

AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION REPORT RELEASED

The Wolf Administration released an agriculture workforce development educational program report in June as a result of collaboration between the PA Departments of Agriculture and Education.  Details:  http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Documents/Agriculture%20Education%20Report.pdf

DEADLINES

  • July 6, 2018 is the deadline for the Department of Environmental Protection to receive online applications for private companies “repowering” trucks and other equipment.  The PA Clean Diesel Grant Program received part of the national $118 million Federal settlement with Volkswagon.  Details: Samantha Harmon at DEP, 717-787-9495; www.dep.pa.gov/driveforward
  • July 20, 2018 is the date by which farmers should file actual acreage reports for Crop Insurance.  Another Crop Insurance date to remember is July 31st, the enrollment deadline for forage seeding protection.  Details: Jordan Stasyszyn at PDA, 717-787-6901
  • October 12, 2018 is the deadline for corn producers, grain handling facilities, or ethanol production facilities to enter into the Settlement Agreement with Syngenta over lawsuits alleging that marketing a GMO seed disrupted U.S. corn market prices.  Details and a scam warning: www.cornseedsettlement.com; 833-567-2676.

AG ONE Newsletter May 28, 2018

SENATE COMMITTEE MOVES TWO AG BILLS

On May 22, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported two bills.  Senate Bill 1171 (Brooks-R-Mercer/Warren/Erie/Crawford) replaces the Nutrient Management Advisory Board with a new Farm Animal Advisory Board.  Its purpose is to give animal farm operators greater input into environmental regulations. The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee also moved Senate Bill 819 (Aument-R-Lancaster).  This bill and companion Senate Bill 820 provide limited immunity from legal action for farmers engaged in agri-tourism.  SB 820 may be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in early June.

HOUSE VOTES FOR 102 INCH TRAILER WIDTH

On May 24, the PA House voted 171-4 for legislation changing the standard width of truck trailers from eight feet (96 inches) to 8.5 feet (102 inches).  The rationale for Senate Bill 880 (Langerholc-R-Cambria/Bedford/Clearfield) is that the PA standard was set in 1976 and that the newer manufacturing U.S. standard is 102 inches.  PennDOT and municipalities will still have the authority to limit truck trailer sizes on specific roadways where a wider width poses a hazard.

STATUS CHECK ON BROADBAND LEGISLATION

  • House Resolution 431 to audit a Dept. of Education Broadband Fund– Adopted
  • House Resolution 429 to establish a legislative task force to focus on Broadband access — Reported out of House State Government Committee
  • House Bill 1642 to require a state inventory of structures that could be used to expand Broadband — House calendar
  • House Resolution 430 to determine if non-rural phone companies are complying with existing law regarding providing access and House Bill 2320 to increase the state minimum for Broadband access– House Consumer Affairs Committee
  • House Bill 2293 to prevent “raiding” of dedicated Broadband access monies for other purposes — House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
  • Senate Bill 740 to preserve land line telephone service to rural PA– Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee

DCNR CONVENES FOREST PLAN HEARINGS

The PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) is convening hearings on the State Forest Resource Management Plan.  The first two are May 31 at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven and June 13 at the Elk Forest District office in Emporium, PA.  Information:  http://www.dcnr.pa.govPaForester@pa.gov

VOCATIONAL BILLS SEE LEGISLATIVE ACTION

A vocational education bill, House Bill 2205 (Roebuck-D-Phila.), passed the House 191-0 on May 23.  It allows establishment of employer advisory committees at the Intermediate Unit level to ensure that industry standards are incorporated in instructional programming.  This was a recommendation of the House Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness.

Senate Bill 1104 (Aument-R-Lancaster) passed the Senate 48-1 on May 24.  It loosens the 78-hour credit requirements for Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers since they have industry experience.  It is now before the House Education Committee.

A package of Career and Technical Education bills was referred to the Senate Education Committee May 18:   House Bill 2155 reforms CTE teacher requirements by emphasizing work experience.  House Bill 2156 provides tax credits to businesses investing in CTE.  House Bill 2157 attempts to speed up classifications of instructional programs including agriculture.

COMING UP…

  • June 5The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is holding a public hearing on Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin).  The bill addresses fertilizer labeling requirements.
  • June 6:  Joint Legislative Budget & Finance Committee releases a report on the feasibility of establishing a water user fee in PA and also an interim report of the Northern PA Regional College which the General Assembly established to provide a community college option for the Northern Tier.
  • June 11:  House State Government is holding a hearing on the Delaware River Basin Commission regulation to ban fracking in parts of northeast PA.  In addition to being a forum on the good or ills associated with Marcellus Shale natural gas development, there may be discussion as to whether the Commission has the regulatory authority to overrule state law Act 13 which regulates fracking in all of PA.  Of particular interest to some in the Agriculture Community is whether the Commission will at some time decide to restrict DEP-permitted biosolid application despite PA law protecting normal agriculture activities.
  • June 11:  PSCFO Board and Council meeting in room 309 at PDA
  • June 14:  House Game & Fisheries Committee hearing on chronic wasting disease.

 CORRECTION:  The post-primary issue of AG ONE did not include parts of Berks County as being in the 9th congressional district contest pitting dairy farmer and former PA Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff against former State Treasurer Dan Meuser. The district includes all or parts of Lebanon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Luzerne, and Carbon Counties AND Berks County.

AG ONE Newsletter May 8, 2018

BROADBAND CAUCUS ESTABLISHED IN HOUSE

Rural Broadband access champions Representatives Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington) have formed a caucus to urge adoption of Broadband legislation.  They have already introduced a package of bills addressing lack of access in rural areas:  House Resolution 431 calling for an audit of a special Broadband fund administered by the PA Department of Education; House Resolution 429 establishing a legislative task force on delivery of high-speed Broadband services; House Resolution 430 which directs the State Government Commission and the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to see if non-rural telephone companies are meeting their legal obligations in providing access to Internet services to rural residents; and House Bill 1642 which directs that there be an inventory of state-owned structures that could also be used to expand access.

In addition, on May 3, House Bill 2320 sponsored by Rep. Snyder was referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.  HB 2320 would increase the state requirement for band width ten-fold to match the Federal standard as set forth in the Connect America initiative.

HOUSE PASSES CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION PACKAGE

On April 30, a bipartisan group of nine bills was approved by the House to boost Career and Technical Education (CTE):  House Bill 2155 reforms CTE teacher requirements by emphasizing work experience.  House Bill 2156 provides tax credits to businesses investing in CTE.  House Bill 2157 attempts to speed up classifications of instructional programs including agriculture.

Of note is House Bill 2203 sponsored by Rep. Pat Harkin (D-Erie) to have the PA Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Labor & Industry work jointly to develop an online career resource center.

REGULATORY REFORM LEGISLATION TAKES CENTER STAGE IN HOUSE

The House voted for bills to provide greater legislative control over PA’s regulatory system.

  • House Bill 1960 (Ellis-R-Butler) requires that each agency appoint a regulatory compliance officer, enabling the regulated community to better understand regulations and provide them with an informal way to resolve noncompliance issues before penalties.
  • House Bill 1792 (Benninghoff-R-Centre) gives the General Assembly the power to void existing regulation providing both House and Senate pass it and the Governor signs it.  Once a regulation is voided, an agency may not re-issue the same regulation unless specifically authorized by a new law.  A legislative committee may report a concurrent resolution to initiate repeal of an existing regulation after a public hearing is held.
  • House Bill 1237 (Keefer-R-York) mandates that a proposed regulation with an impact of one million dollars or more per year on business have a concurrence vote by the General Assembly, thus giving legislators veto power over economically significant regulations.
  • House Bill 209 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) establishes an independent Office of the Repealer.  That position’s duty is to review existing regulations and recommend repeal if they are obsolete or “if it finds the existing regulation(s) to be contrary to the public interest.”
  • House Bill 1959 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) requires all agencies that issue permits to increase transparency through the permitting process.

COMMITTEE VOTES TO ADDRESS HUNTER TRESPASS PROBLEM

On May 1st, the House Game & Fisheries Committee voted for House Bill 1603 (B. Miller-Lancaster) to make hunting while trespassing on private property a primary offense.  This changes current law which says that trespassing can only be charged if there is another violation of the Game Code.  Penalty is losing one’s hunting license for up to one year.

OTHER LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS

  • A bill to amend the Vehicle Code to increase the standard truck trailer width from 96 to 102 inches (House Bill 1699 sponsored by Rep. Jim Marshall-R-Beaver) is now in the Senate Transportation Committee after passage by the PA House.
  • House Bill 2034, (Marshall) is now in the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee after 195-0 House passage.  It provides for agricultural liming materials labeling.
  • On May 1st, the House approved House Bill 1800 (Nelson-R-Westmoreland) for pharmacists to provide and insurers to pay for partial prescriptions in order to synchronize fill or refill dates.  This would reduce the numbers of people (rural elderly for example) who do not take their medications due to difficulties in getting to a pharmacy.

 

UPCOMING

  • May 20:  The PA Milk Marketing Board will hold a hearing on if and how the Milk Marketing Law should be changed.  Details: ra-pmmb@pa.gov
  • June 5:  The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will convene a hearing on Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin).  This legislation is a major re-write of rules regarding fertilizer.  It includes registration, labeling, and inspections as well as citing penalties for misbranding, adulteration, or actual weight being “shorter” than listed weight.  Following is a link to the actual language as there are also technical listings.  NOTE:  When reading, start on page 68.  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=0792&pn=1547

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 January 23, 2018

GENERAL ASSEMBLY RETURNS TO HARRISBURG

The PA General Assembly has resumed work in the New Year.  Advancing the spring agenda were two high-profile House Republican priorities:  a work requirement for non-disabled Medicaid recipients and regulatory reforms per a report issued by the Majority Chair of the House State Government Committee Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler).  Note that a principal target of the State Government Committee report is the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. Also on the House side, the House Appropriations Committee is continuing its hearings with various state agencies on the Special Funds they control.  Underlying these hearings is the conviction shared by many House Republicans that PA’s Special Funds could be utilized to help balance the State Budget instead of having tax increases or additional borrowing by the state.

On the Senate agenda for third consideration (passage) is Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin) relating to application of turf grass fertilizer.  Another Alloway bill on third consideration is Senate Bill 799.  It seeks to replace the current municipalities’ storm sewer systems (MS4s) compliance with Chesapeake Bay nutrient reduction mandates with a private sector competitive bidding program.  Payment would come after Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) certifies nutrient reduction.

 LEGISLATOR UPDATES

  • Filling the term of her late husband Dan McNeill, Jeanne McNeill (D-Lehigh) was sworn in as Representative from the 133th district on January 2, 2018.  She was appointed to serve on House Environmental Resources & Energy, Game & Fisheries, Labor & Industry, and Local Government Committees.
  • Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington) is the newest Democratic member of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  She, along with Republican Kristin Phillips-Hill (York) sponsored four bills targeting expansion of Broadband access for rural Pennsylvanians.  Rep. Phillips-Hill spoke at a Farm Show panel to which the video link follows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0FPvXdYuP4&feature=youtu.be

PVGA OFFERS FUTURE OF AGRITOURISM EVENT 

Among programs offered by the PA Vegetable Growers’ Association at its annual conference in Hershey is a special program January 30 on the impact municipalities are having on agritourism.  Examined are conflicts between local ordinances and PA laws protecting normal farming activities: The Right to Farm Act; Agricultural Area Security Law; Municipalities Planning Code; Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act (Clean and Green); Farmland Preservation / Conservation Easement programs.  Presenting will be Extension’s John Berry and former Deputy Attorney General Susan Bucknam.  Details: John Berry, johnberry@psu.edu, 610.554.2561 (Thanks to January 20, 2018 PVGA Update newsletter)

FEBRUARY FSMA WORKSHOPS SCHEDULED

The Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) in cooperation with the PA Department of Agriculture will be holding community service seminars on February 26, 2018 in Windsor (York County) and March 1, 2018, in Bedford to inform farmers/agriculture producers about their compliance requirements under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Material is directed at vegetable/produce growers.  It will also 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.  These two workshops mark the third and fourth of the series presented by the PA Department of Agriculture and the PA State Council of Farm Organizations.  The others were held in Tamaqua (Schuylkill County) and Kutztown (Berks County).  For more information, please contact Vince Phillips at PSCFO 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com or Lynn Herman at 814-880-2272, lherman77@comcast.net.

REGULATORY NOTE:  Comments on DEP proposed changes to the General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (PAG-12) are due by February 20, 2018.  Among other changes would be using a crop year October 1 – September 30 instead of a calendar year.  Details: https://pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol48/48-3/115.html

 MORE SCHOLARSHIPS

  • (Due February 1) America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders program sponsored by the Monsanto Fund is accepting applications from those 23 years of age or younger who are enrolled in trade schools or college.  Details: www.GrowAgLeaders.com
  • PA Association of Environmental Professionals is offering scholarships to students pursuing an environmental science or related major degree.  (Due February 5)  Details: Kristin Aiosa kaiosa@jmt.com
  • PA Vegetable Growers Association Rudolph Grob Memorial Scholarship applicants must be enrolled in at least a two-year program and be child or grandchild to a PVGA member.  (Due March 31) Details: 717-694-3596 https://www.pvga.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/g-ldr-rec-scholarship-application-17.pdf
  • Open to high school seniors living in Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike Counties who will major in fish, game or wildlife management, forestry, environmental planning and related fields is a scholarship offered by the Northeast PA Audubon Society.  (Due April 30)  Details: http://www.nepaaudubon.org/?s=college+scholarships
  • Angus Foundation is offering scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students.  Applicants must have an active membership in the American Angus Association.  (Due May 1) Details: Milford Jenkins 816-383-5100; mjenkins@angusfoundation.org

AG ONE Newsletter December 22, 2017

This end-of-year issue focuses on several resources available to those involved in agriculture.  AG ONE Newsletter hopes that these will be of value to you as you plan for the New Year.  If you know of others, please let us know and AG ONE Newsletter will post them.

BUSINESS & FARM RESOURCES

  • The PA Department of Community & Economic Development announced the Pipeline Investment Program to help communities use some of the natural gas being produced in the Commonwealth. Specifically, it provides grants to construct the last few miles of natural gas distribution lines to business parks and existing manufacturing and industrial firms.  The maximum grant is not more than one million dollars or 50% of project costs, whichever is less. Details: 866-466-3972
  • REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) application packets for 2017-18 are available.  REAP provides tax credits for agricultural producers who make equipment purchases that reduce run-off of nutrients and sediment.  It is administered by the State Conservation Commission which provides support to county conservation districts.  Applications are on a first-come, first served basis.  Farmers may receive tax credits up to $150,000 per agricultural operation for 50-75 percent of the project’s cost.  Details: Joel Semke 717-705-4032 or jsemke@pa.gov.
  • The PA Department of Agriculture is using a grant from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to subsidize training for produce farmers on their compliance responsibilities under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  The subsidy is $130 out of the $150 registration fee so the net cost is $20.  Information and dates of workshops follow: https://extension.psu.edu/fsma-grower-training
  • January 18: Leesport, Berks County
  • January 29: Hershey, Dauphin County
  • February 13: Greensburg, Westmoreland County
  • February 20: Center Valley, Lehigh County
  • February 28: Lancaster, Lancaster County
  • March 6: University Park, Centre County
  • March 8: Biglerville, Adams County
  • The Center for Dairy Excellence is offering grants to dairy farmers to establish a team approach in planning for profitability, farm succession, and “Dairy Transformation”.  These grants are used to assemble a team of advisors and a facilitator and range from $2,000 to $5,000 (more if the Dairy Transformation farm plan involves a renewable energy component.)  Details: “Business Tools” tab on www.centerfordairyexcellence.org or Melissa Anderson 717-346-0849
  • PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a specialized program, the Agricultural Plan Reimbursement Program, which can cover some of the costs of technical help on plans for pollutant reduction in local streams and rivers.  Deadline to register to participate in the program is April 1, 2018.  Details: Sara Bolton 570-374-5700, sbolton@larsondesignergroup.com for northern counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Jedd Moncavage 717-721-6795 jeddm@teamaginc.com for southern counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS

  • Center for Dairy Excellence is accepting applications for a summer internship in its Harrisburg office.  DEADLINE IS DECEMBER 31, 2017.  Details: Mary Foote 717-346-0849, mfoote@centerfordairyexcellence.org
  • PA Farm Bureau’s PA Friends of Agriculture is offering scholarships to PFB families to students enrolling at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences or Delaware Valley University College of Agriculture.  In addition, a large animal veterinary studies scholarship is available.  Details: https://www.pfb.com/the-foundation/scholarships
  • PA State Grange offers the Rhone Scholarship to Grange members and families attending Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the PA State Grange Foundation Scholarship, and a Deaf Interpreter Scholarship for those Grange members enrolled in a certification program as an interpreter for the deaf.  Details:  www.pagrange.org
  • National Farmers Union has two scholarships for NFU members.  Details: 202-554-1600, http://nfu.org/education/scholarships
  • Delaware Valley University has 70-plus scholarships listed.  http://www.delval.edu/offices-services/financial-aid/scholarships
  • Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences lists scholarships by major for each of the 23 majors, from Agribusiness to Wildlife & Fisheries Science.  http://agsci.psu.edu/students/scholarships/scholarships
  • Specialized Scholarships:
  • National Dairy Herd Information Association (DHIA) is offering $1,500 scholarships to third or fourth year veterinary students who plan to work in dairy, dairy medicine and are interested in using software and dairy records to aid in dairy management. Details: Holly Thompson, hollyanne1001@gmail.com
  • American Society for Endology & Viticulture offers aid to those intending to have a career in the wine or grape industry. Details: http://asev.org/pod/apply-asev-scholarship
  • Center for Dairy Excellence lists a number of dairy scholarships: National Dairy Promotion & Research Board, National Dairy Shrine, PA Dairy Promotion Program, Dairy Science Scholarship (Delaware Valley University), PA Dairy Innovation Scholarship (Penn State).  Details: 717-346-0849 Jayne Sebright, http://centerfordairyexcellence.org/scholarships
  • Foundation for Rural Service (Rural Broadband Association/NTCA). Details: foundation@frs.org

AG ONE Newsletter November 19, 2017

BUDGET FOLLOW UP

Despite enactment of the State Budget, there are still some loose ends.

  • Up in the air is Governor Wolf’s plan to take out what amounts to an equity loan on the state-owned Harrisburg Farm Show Complex.  His goal was to have the state receive a $200 million loan which would have to be repaid to the lender over 30 years.  There is speculation over the legality of such a move.  The bidding period closed November 13.
  • The medical malpractice insurer of last resort, the PA Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), sued the Commonwealth for what it says is illegally taking $200 million out of the insurer’s reserves to help balance the State Budget. (Act 44).
  • Governor Wolf has dropped his plan to borrow against future profits from the PA Liquor Control Board after the PA Commonwealth Financing Authority approved plans to borrow $1.5 billion from future Tobacco Settlement monies coming into the state. (Act 43 of 2017)
  • Unknown as of November 19 is from which dedicated funds Governor Wolf will take $300 million.  Thanks to authority given to him by the General Assembly in order to pass State Budget revenue bills, Governor Wolf can choose from as few or as many he wants.  Of concern to the agricultural industry are special funds such as the Conservation District Fund and others dedicated to agricultural and conservation efforts.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION RATE HIKE POSTPONED

A 6.06% increase in Workers’ Compensation premiums that would have taken effect November 1 has been delayed as reported by the Central Penn Business Journal due to a challenge from the PA Association for Justice (trial lawyers). Details were not released by the Insurance Department but the following was given in response to a query from Phillips Associates:  While the PCRB proposed a November 1, 2017 effective date in the filing, the Department can use up to 180 days to review the filing in accordance with Article VII of the Workers Compensation Act.  While we don’t anticipate needing the full 180 days contemplated by the law, we have not yet completed our review… If the filing is ultimately approved…there would be an amended effective date as we are now past the November 1, 2017 effective date proposed by the PCRB and cannot approve rates retroactively.

POLITICS

  • Former PA Secretary of Agriculture Denny Wolff is running for the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Barletta who is seeking the nomination to oppose Senator Casey in 2018.
  • PA Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Washington/Allegheny) was chosen as the GOP candidate in the special election to succeed resigned U.S. Representative Tim Murphy.  He defeated two PA Senators, Kim Ward and Guy Reschenthaler to win the Republican nomination.  The special election will take place March 13.  The winner would serve out the remainder of Murphy’s term, meaning that the winner faces a re-election contest in November 2018.
  • House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced his candidacy for the Republican nominee for Governor on November 14.  His announcement brings to four the Republicans vying for the nomination: Senator Scott Wagner (R-York), Allegheny County health consultant Paul Mango and Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth. 
  • January 25 is the date of the special election to replace Rep. Marc Gergely (D-Allegheny).  This district is traditionally Democratic.  Rep. Gergely was forced to step down after pleading guilty to violating gambling laws.
  • State Representative Justin Simmons (R-Northampton/Lehigh/Montgomery) has withdrawn from the contest for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Representative Charles Dent.

BILLS SIGNED BY GOVERNOR

Signed by the Governor October 30 was House Bill 790 (controlled and noxious weeds) which is now Act 46 of 2017. Prime sponsor is House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne). House Bill 176 (Pickett-R-Bradford) is now Act 35 after being signed by Governor Wolf October 25.  It exempts roadside marketing stands and some animal feeding operations from Uniform Construction Code (UCC) building requirements.

QUICK LOOK AT LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

  • Senate Bill 740 (Aument-R-Lancaster) continues Universal Service Fund (land-lines for rural areas).  Status: Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
  • Senate Bills 819 and 820 (Aument) agritourism liability are in Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee and Senate Judiciary Committees respectively.
  • House Bill 544 (Moul-R-Adams) is in the House Appropriations Committee.
  • House Bill 577 (Everett-R-Lycoming) Marcellus natural gas royalty 12.5% guarantee to leaseholders is in the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.  There is also a discharge resolution to have the full House take up the matter, bypassing the committee.
  • House Bill 944 (M. Keller-R-Perry) Commission for Agriculture Education is in the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

GRANTS

  • Up to $1,600.00 from KidsGardening can go to nonprofit, school, or youth programs that plan a new garden or expand an existing one.  Deadline for applications is December 8, 2017.  info@kidsgardening.org ; 802-660-4604
  • Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant applications are due December 5, 2017.  Awards are capped at $15,000 and applicants must work with a technical advisor such as an Extension educator or private crop consultant.  Details: http://www.northeastsare.org

AG ONE Newsletter 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 September 11, 2017

BUDGET, BUDGET, WHO’S GOT THE BUDGET?

This week the House returns to Harrisburg to continue its efforts to finalize a revenue budget (Fiscal Code). Right now, there are several options being considered.  First is the Senate option which generated controversy because of its tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production and other tax increases.  This was a non-starter for the House Republican leadership.  Two other major options being considered this week are:

THE TAXPAYERS’ BUDGET

Crafted by conservative Republican House members and released September 5, it does not raise taxes.  Instead, it taps into various special fund reserves.  This plan envisions $2.44 billion in revenue. Out of specified 55 funds, a number directly involve agriculture and rural PA.

  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Fund $27 million
  • Conservation Districts Fund $3.33 million
  • Racing Fund $27 million
  • State College Experimental Farm Fund $24,000
  • Volunteer Companies Loan Fund $25 million
  • Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund $100 million

Quick to react were DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell and PDA Secretary Russell Redding who said dedicated funds are there to meet specific needs and should not be using as one-time vehicles to balance the State Budget.

Working on the Taxpayers’ Budget were Reps. Dan Moul (R-Adams), Keith Gillespie (R-York), Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland), Seth Grove (R-York), Will Tallman, (R-Adams/Cumberland), Cris Dush (R-Jefferson/Indiana), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), Dave Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Joe Emrick (R-Northampton), Kate Klunk (R-York), Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks), Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin), Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) and Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland).

THE DiGIROLAMO BUDGET

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) presented an alternative budget for consideration on September 7. His proposal would:

  • Tax Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling 3% ($400 million)
  • Increase the rate of the Personal Income Tax (PIT) from the current 3.07% to 3.32% generating one billion dollars
  • $300 million in estimated gaming revenue (expansion to other cities)
  • $50-70 million from “alternatives to liquor privatization”
  • $44.3 million from expanding the reach of the Sales Tax to online marketplaces and booking agents
  • $400-500 million from “fund transfers”.

There are other budget options too.  Among them are House Bill 453 (Ryan-R-Lebanon) which addresses numerous budget areas such as how Tobacco Settlement money will be spent (tobacco cessation programs, etc.) and authorizes the Philadelphia Parking Authority to impose a one-percent tax on ride-sharing networks such as Uber, etc.. A Democratic alternative to Republicans’ State Budget ideas comes from Rep. Curtis Thomas (D-Phila.).  House Bill 542 also covers a wide span of State Budget areas.  Both of these bills were referred to the House Rules Committee September 8.

Adding his perspective, PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale argued for legalization of recreational use of marijuana which he says would bring in $200-300 million per year.  (Opinion editorial in Philly.com on September 7)

FALL SESSION DAYS

Month                                     Senate                         House

September                               18,19,20                     11,12,13,25,26,27

October                                   16,17,18,23,24,25       2,3,4,16,17,18,23,24,25

November                               13,14,15                      13,14,15,20,21,22

December                               11,12,13,18,19,20        4,5,6,11,12,13,18,19,20

POLITICS

On September 7, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-15) announced that he is not seeking re-election in 2018.  That brings to three the number of PA Members of Congress opting not to run.  Rep. Tom Marino (R-10) was tapped by the White House to serve as the Nation’s Drug Czar.  Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11) is not running for re-election as he is seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Senator Robert Casey. A House member, Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Montgomery/Northampton) is seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Dent as is fellow House member Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh).

REST IN PEACE… On September 8, Rep. Dan McNeil (D-Lehigh) passed away due to natural causes.  He was elected in 2012 and served on the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.  Earlier, on September 1, former Rep. Bud George (D-Clearfield) died.  He served the citizens of his district in the General Assembly from 1974-2012.

UPCOMING…a program on Farmland Leasing and Land Opportunities will take place September 22 at the Chester County Economic Development Center.  Details: PA FarmLink 717-705-2121, www.pafarmlink.org

AG ONE Newsletter May 30, 2017

CONTROLLED PLANT/NOXIOUS WEED BILL CLEARS HOUSE

House Bill 790 sponsored by House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) passed the House 194-0 on May 22.  It seeks to update the list of noxious weeds and provide a mechanism to review and assess risks of potential additions to the list.  HB 790 also incorporates weeds listed under the Federal Noxious Weed List.  There is a Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 567 sponsored by Senators David Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

OTHER LEGISLATIVE BILLS OF INTEREST

Two bills of possible interest were referred to the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee May 25.  Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) introduced House Bill 1459 to exempt hatcheries built more than 20 years ago in the most rural portion of the state from the regulatory Authority of the Clean Streams Law.  Authored by Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), House Bill 20 would impose a water usage surcharge on commercial entities.  It was also referred to the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee May 25.  NOTE:  Agricultural water use is exempted from this bill.

McDONNELL CONFIRMED AS DEP SECRETARY

Patrick McDonnell finally was confirmed by the PA Senate May 22 as Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after serving in an acting capacity for a year.   Before being nominated by Governor Tom Wolf, McDonnell served as DEP Director of Policy and ran the state’s Energy Office, coordinating renewable energy and energy efficiency issues.

MORE CABINET NEWS

Last week, Governor Wolf designated Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller as the new Secretary of the proposed consolidated Department of Health & Human Services.  If approved by the General Assembly, the consolidation will merge the existing Departments of Health, Human Services, Drug & Alcohol Programs and Aging.  Also last week, Health Department Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy announced that she was leaving her post in June.

REAL ID LAW SIGNED INTO LAW

On May 26, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 133, sponsored by Senator Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), into law as Act 3 of 2017.  This law allows PA citizens to continue to use a PA Driver’s License as identification. If Pennsylvania had not acted to bring the Commonwealth into compliance with REAL ID, the result would have Pennsylvanians not being able to access assistance from Federal offices including Social Security, Farm Service offices, military facilities, etc. as well as having a barrier to commercial air travel without a passport or federal ID.

 REGULATORY NOTE:  The PA Milk Marketing Board will hold a June 7 hearing for Milk Marketing Area 1.  Details: deberly@pa.gov

SENATE MOVES UNIFORM CONSTRUCTION CODE BILL

On May 24, Senate Bill 269 (Baker-R-Luzerne, Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming) passed the Senate by a 40-10 vote.  The legislation seeks to streamline the process whereby the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council (RAC) reviews international building code changes and decides whether PA should adopt them.  SB 269 says that where there are no negative comments or requests for modification, the international code change could be adopted through RAC consensus versus a 2/3 vote now in statute.  If contested, there would still need to be a 2/3 vote by RAC to ratify the change for PA.   Nine Democrats joined with GOP Senator Michele Brooks (R-Mercer/Warren/Crawford/Erie) to vote against SB 269.

DEP PERMIT LEGISLATION

Bills have been introduced to address criticisms on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit process.  Senate Bill 487 (Vogel-R-Beaver) directs DEP to establish a secure online tracking system so that permit applicants can check their status.  Existing permit holders would receive a 60-day reminder of their permit’s expiration.  In addition, permit holders would be grandfathered against new legislative or regulatory changes that would have otherwise affected the permit approval.  There is a House counterpart, House Bill 587 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster).  House Bill 1353 (Bloom-R-Cumberland) directs DEP to notify applicants about specific application problems (missing information, deficient compliance with laws or regulations, etc.) and spell out what corrections need to be made.  Specific sections of law or regulations needing compliance must be identified in the DEP communication.  Introduced by House Republican Policy Committee Chair Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre), House Bill 1090 holds DEP accountable to certain timeframes and establishes procedures for initial review, approval/rejection of permit applications.  Another Benninghoff bill is House Bill 1091 which creates a process where applicants that do not receive a final permit decision by the review deadline may appeal DEP’s failure to act to the Environmental Hearing Board.

GRANT DEADLINE NEARS

  • June 30 is the deadline for grant use from the Center for Dairy Excellence and the Center for Beef Excellence. These $1,000 grants reimburse farmers for professional services designed to help them prepare Nutrient Management, Manure Management, Agriculture Erosion and Sediment Plans.  Details:  Ann Nogan, Center for Beef Excellence 717-705-1689, anogancbe@gmail.com;  Melissa Anderson, Center for Dairy Excellence 717-346-0849, manderson@centerfordairyexcellence.org
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