– House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) today praised a comprehensive package of bills that will help Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry grow and thrive.
“Every single person in the Commonwealth depends on Pennsylvania farmers to help put food on their tables,” Causer said. “The agriculture industry also contributes billions to our economy and supports more than a half million jobs across the state.
“For far too long, we have taken these benefits for granted. The bills developed by the General Assembly over the last six months, and the additional $19.2 million in funding for ag-related programs we included in the state budget, are a long-overdue investment in the hard-working men and women who have made agriculture our state’s top industry,” he added.
The initiatives, most of which are now awaiting the governor’s signature to become law, aim to protect the Commonwealth’s food supply and animal health, and combat threats to both crops and livestock; assist farmers with the cost and expertise to further implement best management practices on their farms; support the dairy industry; educate young people about the importance of agriculture; and prepare the next generation of farmers.
Causer is the author of House Bill 1516
, which creates the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account to ensure the Commonwealth can respond quickly 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.
“With recent and ongoing threats such as avian influenza, African swine fever and spotted lanternfly, it is important we are prepared and able to provide a rapid and well-coordinated response,” Causer said.
He noted two new line items in the state budget will complement the disaster readiness initiative by devoting more funding to protect animal health, a repeated request he has heard from many farmers during his time as chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. The 2019-20 state budget includes $2 million for the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission and $1 million to livestock and consumer health protection.
“Many diseases have potentially serious consequences for animal health as well as human health,” Causer said. “This is not only an investment in animal health but in public health as well.”
Causer is also the author of legislation that will exempt milk trucks from weather-related commercial vehicle travel bans in the Commonwealth. Under House Bill 915, milk haulers who wish to be exempt during travel bans would have to obtain a decal issued by the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board. The exemption is necessary, Causer said, because cows continue to produce milk regardless of weather and if farmers can’t get their milk to market, they have no choice but to dump it.
“I am proud of the great work of our farmers and honored to have worked with them and my fellow legislators to not only identify challenges facing our agriculture industry but to develop solutions to help address them,” he concluded.
A full list of the initiatives is below.
Growing Pennsylvania Agriculture
House Bill 1514
• Establishes the PA Farm-to-School Program to provide grants to educate pre-kindergartners through fifth-graders, and their families, about the importance of choosing healthy, locally produced foods; and increase awareness of Pennsylvania agriculture. It replaces an existing grant program with a similar mission.
House Bill 1516
• Creates the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account to ensure the Commonwealth can respond quickly 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.
Senate Bill 634
• Creates the Conservation Excellence Program, granting the State Conservation Commission the authority to prioritize projects and provide technical assistance and funding through a mix of grants, low-interest loans and tax credits to help farmers and landowners implement conservation best management practices.
Senate Bill 661
• Provides for state-level Specialty Crop Block Grants to encourage investing in and farming of high-priority crops that are not eligible for the federal grant program.
• Establishes the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to serve as a resource to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan or succession plan, helping to ensure farm operations continue to thrive through ownership changes.
• Reestablishes the former Agriculture and Rural Youth Development Program into a new grant program to fund youth organizations that promote development in agriculture, community leadership, vocational training and peer fellowship.
• Establishes an Urban Agricultural Infrastructure Grant Program that provides reimbursement to an individual who implements a project to improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas that focuses on aggregation of agricultural products, sharing resources and supporting community development resource.
House Bill 1520
• Creates a grant program to reimburse federal meat inspection costs for small or new processors.
• Encourages veterans to participate in the PA Preferred and Homegrown by Heroes program to market their veteran-produced commodities.
House Bill 1526
• Reestablishes a low-interest loan program administered by the State Conservation Commission in conjunction with lending institutions for the implementation of agricultural and conservation best management practices.
House Bill 370
• Clarifies subdivision requirements within the Agriculture Area Security Law.
Senate Bill 338
• Increases the allowable width for farm equipment on roads in the Commonwealth.
House Bill 1590
• Creates the Dairy Investment Program under the Commonwealth Financing Authority to set guidelines and provide grants to support the dairy industry.
Senate Bill 478
• Establishes a tax credit program for existing farmers and landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers.
Senate Bill 585
• Creates the Dairy Future Commission to review and make recommendations to promote and strengthen the state’s diary industry.
House Bill 915
• Creates an exemption for milk trucks to allow them to travel during weather-related commercial vehicle travel bans in the Commonwealth.
Ag Budget Highlights
• Overall investment in agriculture increases by $19.2 million or 12.7%.
• Recognizing the importance of animal health, new line items devote $2 million to the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission and $1 million to livestock and consumer health protection.
• Restores funding for programs eliminated by the governor’s proposal, including agricultural research; agricultural promotion, education and exports; hardwoods research and promotion; and the livestock and open dairy shows.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler