On February 14, Gov. Tom Wolf joined Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding to unveil the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, a proposal to provide support for and continued investments in the state’s agriculture industry.
Among other provisions, the plan includes an additional $6 million to support on-farm conservation practices and would help make Pennsylvania a leader in organic agriculture.
“Pennsylvania has a long, proud history of agriculture, and this comprehensive package of funding opportunities and resources will help expand this important industry,” said Gov. Wolf. “The PA Farm Bill allocates $24 million in additional funding to chart a real path for a dynamic and prosperous farming economy in Pennsylvania. It’s about providing more opportunities to our farmers by creating more jobs, more income, and more hope.”
The Pennsylvania Farm Bill will provide for business development and succession planning, create accommodations for a growing animal agriculture sector, remove regulatory burdens, strengthen the ag workforce, protect infrastructure, and make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state.
“Pennsylvania’s story can’t be told without agriculture, and the PA Farm Bill will help inspire all of the chapters yet to come,” said Secretary Redding. “By further supporting the agriculture industry and investing in business operations, infrastructure, education and the workforce, we are setting the course for a future filled with increased opportunities and prosperity.”
The provisions related to farm conservation include:
Conservation Excellence Grant Program, funded at $2.5 million, to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement best management practices.
Agriculture Linked Investment Program, funded at $500,000, to re-establish this low-interest loan program for the implementation of best management practices.
Resource Enhancement and Protection Tax Credits, expanded by $3 million to a total of $13 million annually, to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.
PA Preferred Organic Initiative — $1.6 million– to enhance the growth of the organic industry by creating state-specific guidelines for marketing Pennsylvania’s products to a global marketplace.
Support for urban agriculture initiatives, and a newly created $500,000 state-level specialty crop block grant program to support growing industries like hemp, hops, and hardwoods.
Proposes to amend the Ag Area Security Act to allow for subdivision of preserved farms
Creates a $5 million PA Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account to allow for a quick response to agricultural disasters, including the spotted lanternfly, utilizing animal or plant health officials to contain an outbreak; or providing an immediate response to a foodborne illness.
“Investing in agriculture means investing in small business, investing in our workforce, and investing in future generations of farmers,” said Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron), Majority Chair of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “I look forward to working with farmers across the Commonwealth, Gov. Wolf, and fellow lawmakers to address the challenges facing this industry that puts food on our tables and contributes so much to our economy.”
“Agriculture is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy and this investment proves that the administration recognizes that fact,” Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Minority Chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “This is the leadership we need for the future for agriculture in the Commonwealth.”
“I want to thank Gov. Wolf and his staff for working to increase support for Agriculture, Pennsylvania’s largest industry, and offer my appreciation to the governor for addressing the concerns of the Ag community,” said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “These dollars will help ensure Pennsylvania maintains the highest standards and best practices in safety and quality for the people of PA while protecting the future of agriculture in our Commonwealth.”
Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Butler), Majority Chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, released this statement on the proposal, along with other Senate Republican leaders–
“We are encouraged by Gov. Wolf’s willingness to have a discussion about the best ways to support Pennsylvania’s agriculture community, and we thank the governor for his efforts on this front. Many of these proposals could potentially build on the progress we have already made through the creation of a new grant program to support dairy farmers – an initiative led by Senate Republicans during last year’s budget negotiations.
“In addition to the plans the governor is proposing, we continue to be supportive of the idea of hosting a dairy summit. The summit would bring together all agencies and stakeholders for a discussion on the future of agriculture. A similar approach in New York has yielded positive reviews, and we believe this summit could serve as a valuable outlet for the entire industry at a minimal cost to taxpayers.
“After the governor proposed to cut nearly $4 million in agriculture funding from the state budget last week, the biggest question that remains is how the approximately $24 million in new spending would be funded. As we take a closer look at the governor’s budget and his new plans for supporting farmers, our priority will be working with all parties to determine how we can incorporate some or all of these ideas in a fiscally responsible way. We look forward to a careful review of all of these ideas leading up to our budget hearing with the Department of Agriculture on March 6 and a joint hearing with the Senate and House Agriculture committees on March 20.”