AG ONE Newsletter October 10, 2018

Dear Reader:

Under what conditions should farmers apply biosolids or should they at all is the main topic to be discussed at the PA State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) November 19 meeting at PDA.   Studies have found biosolid application to be beneficial but opponents say that the treated waste (aka sewage sludge) is not treated sufficiently and poses an environmental health hazard.  Add to that pushback from some communities and legislators who believe that municipalities should have a veto power. Right to Farm (ACRE) also enters the fray, making this a very interesting and stimulating meeting.  There will also be program updates from the PA Department of Agriculture and political updates following the November election.  Sincerely, Vince Phillips

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OCTOBER IS CRUNCH TIME

The PA House and the Senate are finishing work for the 2017-18 legislative session.  Thus far, neither House nor Senate has expressed a desire to reconvene for a ‘lame-duck’ session after the election although a day is scheduled in November for clean-up.  Taking up much of the session will be farewell speeches by retiring members of the General Assembly.

NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT BILL MAY RUN OUT OF TIME

An unusual 12-8 partisan vote was taken October 1 in the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on reporting out an amended Senate Bill 1171 (Brooks).  .  Since the bill was amended in the House, there may simply not be enough time for the House to pass it and the Senate to concur with House amendments given that next week is the last week for legislative action.

HUMANE SOCIETY POLICE BILL IS LAW

Signed into law by Governor Wolf on October 2 is Act 77 of 2018 (House Bill 1917 sponsored by Rep. Frank Ryan-R-Lebanon).  It increases initial training hours and mandates training in proper procedures when issuing citations.  There must be training on PA’s animal cruelty laws, “animal husbandry practices constituting normal agricultural operations, practices accepted in the agricultural industry in the raising, keeping and production of agricultural animals,” and “characteristics of agricultural animals likely evidencing care that is in violation of the cruelty to animals laws.”   Following is a link to the new law.

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=1917&pn=2815

ACTION ITEMS

  • House Bill 1346 sponsored by Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong/Indiana/Butler) was presented to the Governor October 2.  It bans drone flying over restricted areas (correctional institutions) and where there is an intentional invasion of privacy.
  • Senate Resolution 457 sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) recognizing the Women of the Grange was adopted by the Senate on October 3.
  • Sponsored by Senator Michele Brooks-R- Mercer/Crawford/Warren/Erie), Senate Resolution 418 urges the U.S. Congress and USDA to include milk in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.  It was reported out by the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee October 2.  Also reported out by the committee was Senate Resolution 421 sponsored by Senator Sharif Street (D-Phila.) urging the U.S. Congress to remove commercial industrial hemp from the Schedule 1 Controlled Substance list.
  • Sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), Senate Bill 1237 establishes the Rural Health Redesign Center, a public-private partnership to help rural hospitals upgrade care and address solvency issues.  It will be funded by a Federal $25 million grant.  It passed the Senate on October 3.

PUC BEGINS PROCESS TO REGULATE BROADBAND POLE ATTACHMENTS

On September 29, 2018, the PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) initiated a process to remove Federal Communications Commission (FCC) jurisdiction over pole attachments used to expand Broadband.  The PUC seeks to have ‘reverse pre-emption’ authority to have more streamlined pole attachments in Pennsylvania.  The rationale follows:

The Commission believes that asserting state jurisdiction over pole attachments at this time will assist policymakers in their efforts to expand access to both wireline and wireless broadband services for all Commonwealth residents, businesses, schools, hospitals—particularly in rural areas of the Commonwealth.

The Notice of Rulemaking states that there will be no fiscal impact on PA State Government. Interested parties have until October 29 to comment.  Written comments go to Secretary, Public Utility Commission, PO Box 3265, Harrisburg, PA 17105.  Email contacts are Shaun A. Sparks at shsparks@pa.gov and Colin W. Scott at colinscott@pa.gov.

REGULATORY UPDATES

  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) approved two PA Department of Agriculture regulations concerning PDA Regulation #2-185, Vegetable Marketing and Research Program and PDA Regulation #2-187 regarding Weighmasters.
  • The PA Department of Agriculture issued a Notice spelling out General Quarantine rules throughout PA for animals afflicted with rabies.  It went into effect October 6, 2018.  https://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol48/48-40/1558.html

RESOLUTIONS…

House Resolution 1074 sponsored by Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Allegheny) was adopted by the House September 25 proclaiming October as “Wines, Wineries, and Grapes Month”.

On September 24, the House adopted House Resolution 1010 sponsored by Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, (D-York) designating August 2018 as “Pennsylvania Produce Month”.

Court Rules on Biosolids Issue

An April 15 decision by the PA Superior Court (Gilbert v. Synagro) remanded the case
back to a York County court to resolve whether the application of biosolids is “a normal
agricultural operation” and entitled to protection under the Right to Farm Act and ACRE.
Also, did the claims of neighbors about contaminated water and solids being deposited
onto their property meet the criteria to be called a “trespass”? A link to the opinion
follows: http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/J-A32014-13o.pdf?cb=2