AG ONE Newsletter September 3, 2018

FEDERAL FARMER TARIFF AID PROGRAM BEGINS SEPTEMBER 4

The Trump Administration $12 billion program to assist farmers who are being adversely affected by the ongoing trade disputes and retaliatory tariffs begins September 4, 2018.

The Market Facilitation Program (MFP) will provide direct payments to PA farmers producing soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, dairy, and hogs.  Its purpose is to allow farmers the flexibility over the timing of marketing their products and to help farmers adjust to disrupted markets.  Capped at $125,000 per agricultural producer, payment rates are:

  • Dairy: 12 cents per hundredweight (cwt) – Hogs: $8.00 per head
  • Soybeans: $1.65/bushel                                – Corn:  one cent/bushel
  • Wheat: 14 cents/bushel                                 – Sorghum: 86 cents/bushel

Payment equals 2018 actual production times 50% times payment rate. There must be a crop acreage report on file with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the farmer must be actively involved in farming except for hogs and dairy.  Dairy production is based on historical product reported for MPP-Dairy and dairy operations must have been in operation on June 1, 2018.  Hog payments are based on the number of live hogs as of August 1, 2018.  There may be a second payment period to be determined.

HOW TO APPLY

Farmers must have had an adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 in tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016.  Market Facilitation payments are capped at $125,000 per person or legal entity.  This program is being administered by FSA with application form at www.farmers.gov/mfp Sept. 4.  Contact: Becca Csutoras, FSA Program Chief for PA, 717-237-2117

There are two additional elements to the Market Facilitation Program.  First is a massive commodities $1.2 billion purchase by USDA Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) based on an economic analysis of harms to U.S. producers from retaliatory tariffs.  Examples are Dairy $84.9 million, apples $93.4 million, potatoes $44.5 million, and pork $558.8 million.

Second is a $200 million program administered by USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS).  The Agricultural Trade Promotion provides assistance to eligible farm groups who are participating in trade shows/consumer marketing/point of sale demonstrations, etc.  Applications for this program will be accepted until November 2, 2018 or until funding is exhausted with funds allocated in early 2019.  NOTE: This program includes a wider range of products including fish and forest products.

UPCOMING

  • The House Finance Committee is holding a hearing on House Bill 2329 (Hahn-R-Northampton) providing for a 100% property tax exclusion for farmsteads.
  • The House Professional Licensure Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 780 (Elder-R-Beaver) setting standards for Telemedicine –of particular value in rural areas.
  • A Beginning Farmer Workshop organized by Farm Link will be offered September 14 in Lancaster.  Details: Michelle Kirk 717-705-2121
  • National Farm Safety and Health Week is September 16-22.
  • The same week is the National Septic Smart Week whose purpose is to remind property owners of the importance on onlot septic system maintenance.
  • On October 1, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is convening a hearing on House Bill 2293 sponsored by committee Chair Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter).  This bill builds a firewall around monies received by the state for Broadband development.

PDA OPEN FOR AG RESEARCH PROPOSALS

Posted In PA Bulletin (www.pabulletin.com) August 25 was guidance from the PA Department of Agriculture on the types of research projects being considered in the current state fiscal year.

Research targets include: multi-year funding for previously approved projects; Spotted Lanternfly; Powdery mildew in hops; alternative uses for fluid milk; support for Dairy research and development; “blockchain technology in agricultural food systems”; identifying gaps in agricultural infrastructure systems; economic impact of Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load; Chesapeake Bay voluntary conservation efforts: hemp’s market potential; workforce development; hydroponics and aquaponics; urban agriculture; and Pollinator Protection Plan.

Apply to PA Department of Agriculture, Research Solicitation Review Committee, Room 211, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110.  Application deadline is September 28, 2018

REGULATORY UPDATES

  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) is holding a September 13 public meeting to consider two PA Department of Agriculture regulations, 2-185, Vegetable Marketing and Research Program and 2-187 Weighmasters.
  • The PA Fish and Boat Commission has released six proposed regulations for public view.  Details: https://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol48/48-35/index.html
  • August 28 concluded the comment period for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of Environmental Justice proposal which mandates Environmental Justice Areas public hearings for so-called “Trigger” permits such as CAFO and biosolid.
Draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy (012-0501-002) Policy   8/28/2018 View comments

AG ONE Newsletter August 8, 2018

AG PROGRESS DAYS GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES

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

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

PA LEGISLATOR GETS NATIONAL NOD

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

RESOURCES FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS

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

 REGULATORY AGENDAS RELEASED

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

The PA Agriculture Department (PDA) lists six regulations.

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

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

PennDOT has several.

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

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

COMMEMORATIVES

AG ONE Newsletter 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 March 5, 2018

PSCFO CONCLUDES FOOD SAFETY WORKSHOPS

On March 1, the last of four workshops was held in Bedford County to inform produce growers on how to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act’s regulatory requirements.  The other three were held in Tamaqua (Schuylkill County), Kutztown (Berks County), and Windsor (York County). Presenters were from the PA Department of Agriculture who walked growers through areas such as worker safety & hygiene, use of water, risk of animal contamination, and ways to avoid contamination during storage.  Statistically, 46% of food sickness incidents requiring medical treatment and/or hospitalization have been traced back to farms.

In addition to farmers, numbers of legislators and staff also attended.  Attending were legislators Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, Senator Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill), Reps. Gary Day and Dave Maloney (R-Berks), Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), and Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar (R-Somerset/Bedford).  Staff represented the following legislators:  Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair); Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill and Rep. Kate Klunk (R-York); Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh); Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-Cambria/Bedford/Clearfield); and Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York), Majority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

DEPARTMENT & COMMODITY MARKETING

The PA Department of Agriculture announced March 3 that the PA Wine Marketing & Research Program Board is soliciting proposals on marketing and research projects to increase quality profitability, production and sale of wines.  Applications are due April 20, 2018 to PA Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Commodity Board Grant Program, 2301 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg, PA 17110.  Details: www.pabulletin.com

March 20, 2018 is the last postmarked date for referendum ballots on continuation of the PA Vegetable Marketing & Research Program to be submitted.  Eligible voters are vegetable producers who grew at least one acre of vegetables in 2017’s growing period or grew vegetables in greenhouses located in PA with total space of 1,000 square feet or more.  Voting began March 5.

AG DEPARTMENT PLANS SEVEN REGULATIONS

The PA Department of Agriculture plans to issue seven regulations in the first half of 2018:

  • Conservation Easement Program Contact: Douglas Wolfgang 717-783-3167
  • PA Preferred Contact: Laura England 717-783-8462
  • PA Vegetable Marketing Contact: Bill Troxell 717-694-3596
  • Rabies Prevention & Control Contact: Nanette Hanshaw, DVM 717-783-6677
  • Kennel Canine Health Contact: Kristin Donmoyer 717-705-8896
  • Weights, Standards & Measures Contact: Walt Remmert 717-787-6772
  • (Raw) Milk Sanitation             Contact: Lydia Johnson 717-787-4315

BUDGET HEARINGS CONCLUDE THIS WEEK

The annual House and Senate Appropriations Committee hearings on the State Budget conclude this week. Of key interest is the Governor’s Office and Office of the Budget on March 8 for both House and Senate Appropriations Committees where scrutiny may center on from where the revenue will come to fund the State Budget.  PA Cable Network (https://pcntv.com/schedule/ ) airs most of the hearings.  Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding testified before both committees.  Thanks to the Senate Majority Communications Office, following is a link to the Senate Appropriations hearing on February 28. https://pasen.wistia.com/medias/h86ncu5jfq The hearing touched on an array of topics ranging from hemp to the Farm Show lease-lease-back (equity loan).

POLITICS

  • Minority House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Bill Keller (D-Phila.) is not seeking re-election.  This means that both Majority and Minority Chairs of this committee will be new in 2019.
  • Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh)has dropped his congressional plans as did because of the PA Supreme Court imposed redistricting and is running for re-election.
  • Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) withdrew her bid for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor and is now running for Congress in the redrawn 4th congressional district.

PA SPECIAL ELECTION GARNERS NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

  • March 13 is the date of the special congressional election in southwest PA’s 18th district, pitting PA House Representative Rick Saccone (Republican) against Democrat Conor Lamb.  Saccone was elected to the PA House in 2010.  Lamb was an attorney with the Marines and former Assistant District Attorney in Pittsburgh during the Obama Administration.  This is seen as a referendum on Trump and GOP control of Congress.  Notables such as former Vice President Biden and President Trump are actively campaigning in the district.

USDA RENEWS CENSUS REQUEST

Even though the initial deadline was February 6, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) asks farmers who have not completed the Census of Agriculture to do so.  Please respond to www.agcounts.usda.gov or call King Whetstone at 717-787-3904 with questions.

FARM LINK PLANS SUCCESSION WORKSHOP in Chambersburg March 8.  The Farm Succession and Transition Workshop will help farmers to pass on the business to the next generation.  Farm Link and partner AgChoice Farm Credit are both PSCFO members.  Details: Michelle Kirk 717-705-2121  mkirk@pafarmlink.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 June 21, 2017

PSCFO ADOPTS BUDGET POLICY POSITIONS

The PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) adopted several policy positions relating to issues facing the General Assembly, chief among these being the FY 2017-18 State Budget.  PSCFO is urging the General Assembly to restore the PA Agriculture Department’s General Government Operations (GGO) line item budget to what was originally proposed to the legislature in February ($31.612 million).  Doing so would allow the Department to continue animal, plant, food inspections at current levels versus continued erosion of PDA’s ability to handle the core function of food security.  PSCFO also urged restoration of other budget cuts in areas such as the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, conservation, the agriculture research line item in PDA’s budget, etc.

The State Council also adopted two additional policy positions to:

  • Thank the PA House for voting unanimously for House Bill 176 (Pickett-R-Bradford) which exempts roadside stands from building requirements of the Uniform Construction Code (UCC).  The Senate was urged to concur and pass the bill before the start of the summer recess.
  • Support legislation that limits liability for those engaged in agri-tourism.  The point was made at the June 12 meeting that given the situation with dairy particularly, farmers must rely on additional sources of income.  Fear of a lawsuit is a real barrier.

DOG LAW REVISIONS URGED BY PDA

On June 16, the PA Department of Agriculture asked the General Assembly to take prompt action on House Bill 1463 and Senate Bill 738.  Per the Department, the Dog Law Restricted Account is nearing depletion while demands for the Department’s work in regulating and inspecting kennels, protecting stray dogs, and responding to dog bite situations have skyrocketed.  The bills would create a single state-wide system for purchasing and renewing dog licenses rather than the currently fragmented system.  License fees would increase from $6.50 to $10.00 annually and from $31.50 to $47.00 for lifelong dog licenses.

AGRICULTURE ISSUES in the General Assembly…The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee convened a hearing June 13 on the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) which could have a devastating effect on the 1,000-plus deer farms in PA… A bill limiting liability to land owners from recreational users passed the House Tourism & Recreational Development Committee June 6 and was referred to the House Rules Committee….Also on June 6, the House passed House Bill 410 (Warner-R-Fayette/Westmoreland) to establish performance-based budgeting in PA.  Advocates say it will force agencies to justify their budget every year rather than ‘coasting’ based on previous budgets.  The vote was divided 115-79…House Bill 187 (Sonney-R-Erie) which allows wind energy easements for protected farms is on the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee agenda June 20.  It passed the House May 10 by a 192-4 vote….

CONTROLLED PLANT & NOXIOUS WEED BILL BEING CONSIDERED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Also on June 20, the Senate committee will take up House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) regarding the Controlled Plant & Noxious Weed Act.  Among other things, it establishes a system to control weeds that might have economic value such as a biofuel.  Its’ Senate counterpart is Senate Bill 567 (Argall-R-Schuylkill and Schwank-D-Berks).

ASSOCIATION NEWS

  • Wayne Campbell (PA State Grange) was appointed by the Board of Directors to fill the unexpired term of Beth Downey who resigned.
  • The PA Department of Agriculture/PSCFO- sponsored Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)/Risk Management workshop June 1 in Tamaqua had two legislators in attendance, Senate Majority Policy Committee Chair Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

HOUSE AG COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER TWO BILLS

On June 20, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is considering two bills.  House Bill 1518 (Causer-R-McKean/Cameron/Potter) adds two farmers as alternate members of the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Board.  This Board meets to see if there are prudent alternatives to taking farmland for highway purposes.  Currently, there is no provision for the farmer members of the Board to have alternates.  The second bill is House Bill 1550 (Klunk-R-York).  It allows a farmer to choose not to create an additional farmstead residence to reduce the protected farmland value for a tax write-off or make it easier to pass on the farm to the next generation at a lower value.

COMING UP…

  • PA Certified Organic is hosting the 6th annual FarmFest in Centre Hall, PA July 28-19 to celebrate “our state’s rich organic heritage.”  Details: 814-422-0251
  • FARM AID Concert is returning to Pennsylvania September 16 in Burgettstown, PA, about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh. Details: https://www.farmaid.org/concert
  • The PA Fair schedule flyer has been released.  Details: PA Department of Agriculture 717-787-6298 or PA State Association of County Fairs 866-814-6985, www.pafairs.org  Trivia question: What is the longest-running annual fair in the country? It is the Jacktown Fair in Greene County.  The oldest fair in the U.S. is of course the York Fair.

AG ONE Newsletter May 17, 2017

REDDING TAKES AIM AT HOUSE BILL 218

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

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

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

REAL ID PROGRESSING

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

POLLINATOR ISSUES SUBJECT OF STATE FORUM

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

OTHER LEGISLATION OF INTEREST

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

GAME COMMISSION PROPOSES RULES

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

APPLE GROWERS ADOPT APPLE PROGRAM

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

FSMA/RISK MANAGEMENT SEMINAR in TAMAQUA JUNE 1st

In conjunction with Schuylkill County’s legislative delegation and with financial support from the PA Department of Agriculture, the PA State Council of Farm Organizations is offering a no-cost seminar on Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance to produce farmers in the region. Held June 1 in Tamaqua, It will cover elements of a farm risk management plan which includes food safety, Crop Insurance, and information on what to ask an insurance agent to make sure that farmers’ insurance needs are met.  Details: 717-232-9665, xenobun@aol.com. Thanks to PSCFO members such as PA Vegetable Growers Association, PA State Grange, PA Association of Conservation Districts, PennAG Industries Association, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, and others for helping spread the word.   Also, PSCFO member PA Farmers Union is planning FSMA compliance webinars.  Details: www.pafarmersnion.org

Avian Influenza Fears Prompt Reaction

An August 19 joint meeting of the House and Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees will take place at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center to have legislators receive an update on state efforts to anticipate and confront the threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

On the Administration side, PDA published a General Quarantine Notice “Virus Control for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, Poultry and Poultry Products at Competitions, Shows, Fairs, and Exhibitions” in the July 11 PA Bulletin. The Notice builds on previous PDA prohibition of poultry and egg products into PA from states with reported cases of HPAI unless the products are found to be free from contamination.
(Refer to AG ONE 2015.8 at www.pscfo.com for a summary of the Interstate Quarantine Order.)

The new Notice specifies that no poultry products including eggs or any goods or items made up of poultry products such as feathers, shall be exhibited at the 2016 Farm Show or any of the many shows, fairs, or exhibitions governed by the PA Agricultural Fair Act. It also builds on a previous PDA Notice banning live poultry from the shows, etc.

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