HARRISBURG – A comprehensive package of bills that will help support Pennsylvania farmers and grow the state’s top industry was signed into law today by the governor, said Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
“Agriculture is such an important part of our economy and our everyday lives,” Causer said. “The bills we have worked on together over the past several months will help protect animal health and our food supply, combat threats to both crops and livestock, assist farmers with implementing best management practices, support the dairy industry and prepare the next generation of farmers to lead the industry.
“These new laws represent a worthwhile investment in some of the hardest-working Pennsylvanians I know and in an industry that is vital to our Commonwealth’s future,” he added.
Among the bills signed by the governor today is House Bill 1516
, which Causer authored to create the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account. Funded at $4 million in the current year’s budget, the purpose of the account is to help 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.
Recent and ongoing threats facing the state’s farmers include avian influenza, African swine fever and spotted lanternfly.
“We already have an effective monitoring system in place to keep an eye out for these threats. My bill helps ensure that when we see a problem, we can provide a rapid and well-coordinated response,” Causer said.
Other bills signed by the governor include:
• House Bill 1514
– Establishes the PA Farm-to-School Program to provide grants to educate pre-kindergartners through fifth-graders.
• House Bill 1516
– Creates the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account.
• Senate Bill 634
– Creates the Conservation Excellence Program.
• Senate Bill 661
– Provides state-level Specialty Crop Block Grants, establishes the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center, reestablishes the former Agriculture and Rural Youth Development Program and creates an Urban Agricultural Infrastructure Grant Program.
• House Bill 1520
– Creates a grant program to reimburse federal meat inspection costs for small or new processors and encourages veterans to participate in the PA Preferred and Homegrown by Heroes program.
• House Bill 1526
– Reestablishes a low-interest loan program to assist with 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. (Signed into law June 28.)
• House Bill 1590
– Creates the Dairy Investment Program.
The measures are complemented by a $19.5 million increase in funding for ag-related programs included in the state budget adopted by the General Assembly last week. In addition to supporting the above initiatives, the budget includes two new line items to protect animal health: $2 million for the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission and $1 million to livestock and consumer health protection.
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. The governor has not yet acted on this bill.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler