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 April 6, 2017

HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET ADVANCES TO SENATE

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

PA Department of Agriculture

Budget Line Item                                FY 2016-17        Governor                  House Bill 218

General Government Operations          29.379 million   31.612 million           29,557 million

Centers for Excellence                        1.21 million       0                                1.029 million

Food Market Coupons                         2.079 million     2.079 million             2.079 million

Ag Research                                      1.687 million     0                                0

Ag Promotion, Education, Exports       250,000             0                                0

Hardwoods Research & Promotion      385,000             0                                328,000

Livestock Show                                 195,000             0                                0

Open Dairy Show                              195,000             0                                0

Youth Shows                                     154.000             154,000                     131,000

Food Purchases                                 19.188 million  19.188 million            19.188 million

Transfer Nutrient Fund                       2.714 million     2.714 million             2.307 million

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

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

PA Preferred                                      605,000             605,000                     514,000

UPenn Vet School                              30.135 million   0                                0

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

COMING UP

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

APPLE MARKETING ORDER

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

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

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

USDA NASS SEEKS AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION HELP

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

NASS ISSUES PLANTING FORECASTS

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

POLITICAL NOTE…

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

Politics

Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican nomination for Attorney General. He joins Senator John Rafferty (R-Montgomery).

After resigning July 22 as Governor Wolf’s Chief of Staff, Katie McGinty is running for the Democratic nomination for US Senate. If she wins the primary against former US Rep. Joe Sestak, she will face off against incumbent Republican Pat Toomey.

Special election results: There were special House elections held August 4 in Cumberland and Delaware Counties and August 11 in Philadelphia. The net outcome was a gain of one seat for Democrats although Republicans still have a sizable majority.
– Cumberland County (succeeding Republican Glen Grell) Greg Rothman (R)
– Delaware County (succeeding Republican Joe Hackett ) Leanne Krueger-Branekey (D)
– Philadelphia (succeeding Democrat Michelle Brownlee) Donna Bullock (D)
– Philadelphia (succeeding Democrat Ron Waters) Joanne McClinton (D)
– Philadelphia (succeeding Democrat John Sabatina) Ed Neilson (D)