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).

Two Ag-Championed Bills Reach Governor’s Desk

high tunnel billsHigh Tunnels: House Bill 1440 (Boback-R-Luzerne) enacted by the General Assembly. This states that these agricultural buildings are not governed by the Uniform Construction Code. PSCFO and a number of PSCFO Council member organizations such as PA Landscape & Nursery Association and the PA Farm Bureau lobbied for HB 1440’s passage. Status: Sent to Governor Corbett October 14.

Vehicle Code Change: Also sent to the Governor October 14 was House Bill 2092 (M. Keller-R-Perry) amends the PA vehicle code to make PA requirements match those of federal rules regarding “covered farm vehicles” where drivers do not need a commercial driver’s license to operate “covered farm vehicles” anywhere within the state or operated interstate within 150 miles from the farm. The Fiscal Note clarifies that the legislation’s 150 miles are “air miles”, meaning that the actual range is 172.6 miles.

Ag Progress Days Tours Outlined

Ag Progress DaysROCK SPRINGS – An Ag Progress Days staple are the research tours ranging from habitat for deer and other wildlife to management tactics for high yielding soybeans.

Some other tours include woodlot management, stream (riparian) buffers and native prairie grasses, short rotation woody crops for biomass, Penn State’s Deer Research Center; pasture management, American Chestnut Foundation plantings, etc.

In addition, a tour of the High Tunnel Research & Education Facility demonstrates current production systems and horticultural crops that can be produced in high tunnels.  Complete list of tours is found at http://agsci.psu.edu/apd/events/tours

Legislative News – UCC Impact on High Tunnels

Hoop-Houses-at-FairviewWith the State Budget, pension reform and liquor store privatization taking much of the proverbial oxygen out of the room, agricultural issues have not seen much of the spotlight.

UCC Bill Moves Forward

A possible exception: On June 4, the PA Senate approved Senate Bill 1023 (McIlhinney-R-Bucks) by a vote of 47-1 to upgrade the duties of the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council (RAC). The RAC’s function is to issue recommendations for the PA UCC and assess whether changes in International Code are applicable to the Commonwealth.

May Affect HB 1440

An item of possible interest to the Agriculture industry is that recommendations from RAC must meet or exceed Uniform Construction Code provisions currently in effect. An unknown is whether SB 1023 would have an impact on PSCFO-supported legislation (HB 1440) that would remove tunnel buildings from the Uniform Construction Code – would this be seen as weakening the UCC?

General Assembly Returns

After spending a month with appropriations hearings, the General Assembly is back in session. Matters to note:

  • On March 10 the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee amended Senate Bill 1181 (Vogel-R-Beaver) to transfer $4.2 million from the Race Horse Development Fund to the State Racing Fund to provide resources to the PA Racing Commission to perform its regulatory responsibilities.
  • House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Chair John Maher (R-Washington/Allegheny) distributed sponsorship memos to House members regarding a resolution to congratulate Cooperative Extension Service on its 100th anniversary and a second resolution recognizing April 1 as Farm Bureau Day. Status: No resolution numbers yet
  • A House Professional Licensure Committee hearing on licensing of professional soil scientists (House Bill 997 sponsored by Rep. Scott Petri-R-Bucks) has been set for May 7.
  • On February 4, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported out Senate Bill 1149 (Brubaker-R-Lancaster) relating to the application of fertilizer on turf areas (lawns, athletic fields and golf courses). Two other bills reported out by the committee February 4 were: SB 1188 (Vogel-R-Beaver) amending the Race Horse Industry Reform Act and SB 1107 (Alloway-R-Franklin) stating that if a kennel license is revoked, no new kennel licenses will be issued to a person who is a member of the same family nor to any person residing at the address of the current (revoked) licensee.
  • House Bill 1440 (Boback-R-Luzerne) is still on hold in the Senate. It would exempt high tunnel buildings from the Uniform Construction Code.