HARRISBURG – Recognizing the importance of agriculture to Pennsylvania’s economy, the PA Senate recently passed several measures to support farmers and encourage new generations to continue the state’s rich agricultural heritage, according to Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33).
A number of the measures in the package were championed by Senate Republicans as part of the Farming First initiative, which was announced in May. Additional measures were advanced by House Republicans, and components of the Governor’s PA Farm Bill are also included.
“As the vice chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, it was extremely imperative to continue to invest in our farming community,” said Mastriano. “Both sides of the aisle stepped up to support our ag industry, and approve this forward-thinking and innovative legislation. Agriculture is vital to the 33rd District, and it is my hope that the industry continues to grow and thrive.”
Bills in the package sponsored by Senate Republicans include:
- SB 661 would create a number of new programs to support the agriculture community, including the Agriculture Business Development Center, Agriculture & Youth Development Grants, the Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program, and the Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
- SB 478, sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel (R-47), chair of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, would establish a tax credit program for landowners to lease or sell farmland to future generations of farmers.
- SB 338 would update Pennsylvania’s vehicle code to allow the transportation of farm equipment that exceeds the current width allowable by law.
- SB 634 would create the Conservation Excellence Grant Program to provide technical and financial assistance for agricultural operations to implement conservation best management practices.
- SB 585, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), would create the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission to review and make recommendations to promote and strengthen the Commonwealth’s dairy industry.
“We need to explore every option to support our local dairy operations, because they have suffered over the past few years due to low prices for their product,” said Mastriano. “Out of all the sectors that make up the agriculture community, the dairy industry is one of the most important.”
Other bills in the package include:
- HB 370, sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk (R-169), would amend the Agricultural Area Security Law to allow farmers more discretion regarding the construction and subdivision or residences on preserved farmland.
- HB 1514 would rename the current Healthy Farms Healthy Schools program as the Farm-to-School Program, and make improvements with the initiative.
- HB 1516 would create the Agriculture Rapid Response Disaster Readiness program to respond to diseases, pests, invasive species and other threats to the agriculture industry.
- HB 1520 would create the Very Small Meat Processor Federal Inspection Reimbursement Grant Program to help businesses comply with federal inspection standards.
- HB 1526 would revise the Agriculture Linked Investment Program for the implementation of agricultural and conservation best management practices.
- HB 1590 would create the Dairy Investment Program within the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
All of the bills in the package have been sent to the Governor to be signed into law.
“The measures are aimed at making sure our ag industry remains viable for a long time,” said Mastriano. “I view the farm package as comprehensive legislation that not only focuses on the long-term future of Pennsylvania agriculture, but it also addresses the present.”
Also, as part of the 2019-2020 budget that was adopted last week, the spending plan maintains Senate Republicans’ commitment to PA’s farmers by restoring all of the Governor’s proposed cuts to the Department of Agriculture. In fact, the budget sent to the Governor’s desk increases the overall appropriation to the department by 13 percent.
“Any time lawmakers commit to agriculture, it shows we are dedicated to ensuring that this vital industry remains at the top of our state economy, now and into the future,” said Mastriano. “I am hoping that these investments result in great dividends moving forward.”
Overall, the state’s 59,000 farm families manage about 7.7 million acres of farmland, and the ag industry generates more than $7.5 million in cash receipts annually.
CONTACT: Scot Pitzer (717) 787-4651; email@example.com