-- The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), gathered at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Wednesday to hear from leaders of five of the state’s agriculture advocacy organizations.
“Over the last few years, we have successfully adopted several policies to address challenges facing the farming community, but there is no question we have more work to do,” Causer said. “We have been working on bills addressing several of the issues raised today, such as rural broadband, agritourism liability and additional investments in our dairy industry. We appreciate the ongoing advocacy and support of these efforts as we work to get them to the governor’s desk and enacted into law.”
Rick Ebert, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, told lawmakers the key to survival for the state’s farmers is to be able to diversify. Agritourism offers farmers that opportunity but under current law, liability concerns related to agritourism are a roadblock. He encouraged support for House Bill 1348
, noting it strikes the right balance between protecting farmers and protecting the public.
Wayne Campbell, president of the PA State Grange, focused heavily on the need for rural broadband access, not only to help farms and other agriculture businesses but also to meet the needs of rural communities such as health care via telemedicine.
Hannah Smith-Brubaker, executive director of the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture, highlighted the ongoing importance of farmland preservation and preparing and educating the next generation of farmers in the Commonwealth.
Heidi Secord of the PA Farmers Union stressed the importance of helping small family farms access expanding markets, such as hemp, and facilitating more processing opportunities within the Commonwealth for not only dairy but also animals.
Finally, Christian Herr, executive vice president of Penn Ag Industries, talked about how vital it is to ensure animal health, as 75% of the Commonwealth’s agriculture industry is animal agriculture.
Other issues raised by one or more of the presenters include concerns about the impact of stormwater management fees on farmers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, support for a proposal creating Keystone Opportunity Dairy Zones to incentivize expanded dairy processing facilities, and the importance of business development and succession planning to continue the Commonwealth’s farming traditions.
Causer noted the committee’s bipartisan approach to addressing these issues and said he is looking forward to working toward these goals in 2020.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler