HARRISBURG – Recognizing the importance of agriculture to Pennsylvania’s economy, the Senate has passed several measures to support farmers and held a hearing to explore ways to promote the dairy industry, according to Senator Elder Vogel, Jr.
A public hearing of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on Tuesday included a detailed discussion about the current state of the dairy industry. Pennsylvania dairy farming supports 52,000 jobs and contributes $14.7 billion to the state’s economy, Vogel said.
The Senate also approved Senate Resolution 403 Wednesday designating June as Dairy Month in Pennsylvania. A separate resolution approved on Monday (Senate Resolution 382) encouraged the federal Food and Drug Administration to end the practice of companies using misleading labeling on non-dairy products.
Also on Monday, the Senate endorsed Senate Resolution 384, which would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study and issue a report making recommendations for initiatives to assist dairy producers in Pennsylvania.
In addition to the bills promoting the dairy industry, the Senate approved two other measures this week that will benefit the agriculture community as a whole.
On Wednesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1171, legislation that would give farmers greater input on proposed environmental regulations that could impact their farms. It would also ensure representatives from every region of the state are included.
The Senate also approved Senate Bill 819 on Monday to ensure agritourism activities – such as farm tours, hay rides and corn mazes – are authorized on farms that are part of the state’s farmland preservation program.
These actions are in addition to a tentative budget agreement that would restore funding to a number of critical programs under the Department of Agriculture that Governor Wolf sought to eliminate in his February budget proposal. Governor Wolf called for a $2 million cut to agriculture programs in next year’s budget, but the spending deal negotiated by Senate and House leaders would increase funding to the department by more than $7 million next year over the current year’s budget.
Some of the line items restored or increased by lawmakers in the tentative deal include:
- Agricultural Excellence — $1.33 million,
- Agricultural Research — $2.18 million,
- Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports — $303,000
- Hardwoods Research and Promotion — $424,000,
- Livestock Show — $215,000,
- Open Dairy Show — $215,000,
- State Food Purchase — $500,000,
- Food Marketing and Research — $494,000.
The budget proposal also includes $3 million to combat the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive species that threatens the grape, hops and logging industries. Products in 13 Pennsylvania counties remain under quarantine to prevent the pest from spreading to other parts of the state.