HARRISBURG – The Commonwealth would be better prepared to respond quickly and effectively to threats facing the agriculture industry under legislation sponsored by Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) and approved by the House today.
“From an economic perspective, agriculture is our state’s top industry, supporting more than a half million jobs and generating more than $26 billion in total earnings. The industry also puts food on our tables,” said Causer, who chairs the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “All Pennsylvanians have a vested interest in ensuring our agriculture industry not only survives but thrives and being ready to respond to potential disasters is a vital part of that.”
House Bill 1516
would create the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account and allocate funding to the Department of Agriculture to facilitate a quick response to agricultural disasters, including using animal or plant health officials to contain an outbreak or threat, or providing an immediate response to a foodborne illness.
Spotted Lanternfly is an ongoing threat facing multiple segments of the agriculture industry, including grapes, fruit trees and hardwoods. It was first discovered in Pennsylvania in Berks County in 2014 but has since spread to more than a dozen counties in the eastern and southcentral regions of the state.
In 2015, the state was preparing for a potential outbreak of avian influenza as the disease spread across the country in nearly two dozen states.
“We have effective monitoring and surveillance systems in place to identify threats like these early on, but we are not as prepared as we could be to act on them,” Causer said. “Creating a disaster readiness account will help ensure we have the resources to provide a rapid and well-coordinated response when needed.”
Causer’s bill is one of several being considered by the House to support the state’s agriculture industry. Other measures establish a Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to help farmers create a business plan, transition plan or succession plan; empower the State Conservation Commission to provide technical assistance and financing options for implementing best management practices; boost agriculture education for youth; and protect agritourism business from lawsuits where no party is at fault for injuries or damages.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler