WOTUS Comment Deadline Extended

pa streamThe US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/Army Corps of Engineers proposed definition of “Waters of the US” or WOTUS has a new deadline for public comment, November 14.  The PA Department of Agriculture suggested that the proposed rule be withdrawn.

PSCFO did not comment due to the diversity of views within the organization.

There will be an informational panel on the subject at the October 27 Council meeting to contrast some of the positions.  Those seeking to comment should utilize

http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880-0001

Secretary Greig Invites PSCFO to Town Meeting

greig_official-300x250HARRISBURG – On August 14 at 10:00 a.m. in the Red Barn, PDA Secretary Greig has invited members of the Pa. State Council of Farm Organizations to participate in a Town Hall meeting. This will be an open dialogue between the Department and attendees.

Among other things, discussions will include FDA regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), implementation of the Farm Bill, the PDA Budget for the state fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, and a host of other regulatory topics.

Other topics of interest to PSCFO members such as the EPA’s proposed water definition and the feral hog issue may also be addressed.

RSVPs are needed because of limited seating.  Ben Junkin 717/787-5789, bejunkin@pa.gov

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

Walnut Quarantine Posted for Southeast Pennsylvania

Thousand-Cankers-Walnut-w-shadowHARRISBURG – On August 4, the Pa. Department of Agriculture expanded the walnut quarantine for Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties because of the presence of Thousand Cankers Disease (Geosmithia morbida and Pityophthorus juglandis).

Quarantined Items

This order forbids transport of “nuts, nursery stock, budwood,  scionwood, green lumber, firewood, and other material living, dead, cut, fallen including stumps, roots, branches, mulch and composted and uncomposted chips…” from walnut trees.

Exemptions

The order provides a procedure to request exemptions.  Movement of the above into PA is also prohibited from other states where the disease is present: AZ, CA, CO, ID, IN, MD, NV, NM, NC, OH, OR, TN, UT, VA, and WA unless the plant regulatory agency of the state of origin issues a document certifying that the regulated article is determined to be free of Thousand Cankers Disease.

More information: Dana Rhodes 717/772-5205, danrhodes@pa.gov.

 

Agriculture Survives State Budget Woes

budget paThe Pa. Department of Agriculture survived the state budget gauntlet in Harrisburg for Fiscal Year 2014-15 which began July 1. PSCFO wrote legislative leaders June 29 to say Many of PSCFO’s sixty-plus agricultural organizations are directly affected by the staff capacity at PDA. In this case, a modest increase will stabilize the PDA budget and allow it to meet its directives from the General Assembly.” Following are a number of PDA budget line items compared with the last fiscal year.

 

Line Item                    2014-15 Enacted Budget        2013-14 Available                Change

General Gov’t Operations       25.269 million                       22.703 million                     +11.3%

Ag Excellence                               1.1 million                               600,000                     +83.3%

Farmers’ Market Coupons        2.079 million                         2.079 million                       same

Ag Research                                  787,000                                787,000                       same

Promotion, Ed. & Exports               250,000                                196,000                     +27.6%

Hardwoods Promotion                   350,000                                350,000                        same

Livestock Show                             177,000                                177,000                        same

Open Dairy Show                           177,000                                177,000                        same

Youth Shows                                 140,000                                140,000                        same

State Food Purchase              17.438 million                        17.438 million                        same

Marketing & Research                     494,000                                494,000                        same

Nutrient Management               2.714 million                          2.714 million                        same

Conservation Districts                     869,000                                869,000                        same

Land Scrip Fund                      46.237 million                        46.237 million                       same

(NOTE: This is not what Penn State Ag Research and Extension was budgeted for last year.  Comparison is for the available funds, not the budget-approved amount.)

PA Preferred                                   550,000                                550,000                        same

UPenn Veterinary                           28 million                               28 million                        same

UPenn Infectious Disease                 261,000                                261,000                        same

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/current_and_proposed_commonwealth_budgets/4566

Agriculture’s Regulatory Agenda

PDA LogoAgriculture’s Regulatory Agenda

On July 19, the PA Bulletin published a list of proposed regulations for each agency.  PA Department of Agriculture had ten:  Domestic Animal (December 2014); Weights & Measures (September 2013); Commercial Feed (summer 2014); Pet Food Rules (summer 2014), Fertilizer Regulations (December 2015), Soil & Plant Regulations (December 2015), Clean & Green (August 2014), Conservation Easement Purchase Program (August 2014), PA Preferred (summer 2014), Pesticide Regulations (September 2014).  Details: http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol44/44-29/1552.html

Pechart Recognized, Huber Re-elected

pechart_bioPSCFO Recognizes Pechart

PSCFO’s June Council meeting recognized former PDA official Michael Pechart who served under Governors of both parties for eleven years and who retired from PDA earlier this year to take a private sector position. He was a huge resource for PDA and for the entire Agricultural Community.

Huber Re-Elected to PSU Board

In addition, Immediate Past PSCFO President Betsy Huber was re-elected to the
huberPenn State Board of Trustees. Congrats Betsy!

It’s High Noon Budget Time

budget paIt’s crunch time to enact the State Budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. It’s all about money since revenue projections for this year were not met, $108 million short in May for example.

Governor’s Budget Cuts Many Ag Areas

Agriculture has a huge stake in the outcome given numbers of specific line items not included in Governor Corbett’s original proposal: PA Preferred, Centers for Dairy and Beef Excellence, agricultural research funding in the PDA budget – adequate funding for Penn State’s Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Research is another important issue.

PDA Cuts Not Restored

The initial vehicle for the Budget is House Bill 2328 (Adolph-R-Delaware) which was reported out of the House Appropriations Committee June 9 and re-referred to the House Rules Committee June 11. It reinstates many of the proposed Agriculture cuts but does not include the Governor’s request for an increase in PDA’s General Government Operations budget. Senate vehicle is Senate Bill 1431.

General Assembly Resumes in June

Pa-capitol-300x250The PA General Assembly is readying itself for the June state budget gauntlet where a balanced budget must be signed into law per the constitutional deadline of June 30. To see Governor Corbett’s original proposal for agricultural spending, please refer to the Pa. Budget Office website. PA Department of Agriculture’s budget proposal begins at E8.1 (on page 387). The Farm Show budget is found at C5.1 (page 167). Click here to view PDA’s budget.

Funding for General Government Operations would increase from $22.7 million in available funds now to a proposed $24.738 million for FY 2014-15. This increase does not mean expanded programs. Rather, much of it will go towards meeting increased employee benefits (health insurance) costs.

However, the Corbett budget proposal eliminates funding for numerous successful programs including PA Preferred, the Centers of Agricultural Excellence, Agricultural Research, Agricultural Promotion, Education & Exports, Hardwoods Research & Promotion, Animal Health Commission, Livestock Show, Open Dairy Show, etc.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Corbett budget proposal (as with former Governor Rendell) treats these zeroed out line items as negotiating items with the General Assembly. It does not mean that agricultural advocates can rest because budgets have been restored in the past. Each budget year requires renewed advocacy so that those line items are not overlooked. The Farm Show Fund anticipates $415,000 in fees and licensing income, $4 million from the PA Race Horse Development Fund and Farm Show leasing income of $6.155 million.

Farmers Market Coupons Begin June 1

Farmers marketAccording to a PDA, WIC recipients and low-income senior citizens can again receive assistance to purchase fresh PA fruits and vegetables through PDA’s Bureau of Food Distribution Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

Beginning June 1, qualified recipients can sign up to receive $20 in vouchers to purchase fresh products from approved farmers. Details: 800.468.2433.

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