Committee Considers Solar Power Impact on Agriculture

The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee held a public hearing today (September 21) to receive testimony on utility scale solar development and agricultural land, according to Committee Chairman Senator Elder Vogel.

“While recognizing the importance of renewable energy and the potential for supplemental income for family farms and other agricultural operations, we must also weigh against the potential of losing one of our  most valuable and vital resources,” said Senator Vogel said in opening the hearing.

The hearing focused on three main topics: agricultural land preservation and protection; leasing practices; and co-location of agricultural production and utility scale solar development. 

CONTACT:               Cara Laudenslager                  claudenslager@pasen.gov

Click here for video of the hearing.

Bill Modifying Milk Date Requirement for Sales Headed to Governor

A measure introduced by Senator Elder Vogel (R-47) updating “sell by” and “best by” date labeling for pasteurized milk received final legislative approval today with Senate concurrence on a minor amendment by the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 434 now goes to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law.

Currently, Pennsylvania regulation requires milk to be labeled for sale within 17 days of pasteurization.  Only two other states have similar “fixed code” dates for milk regulations, thus putting Pennsylvania-produced milk at a competitive disadvantage in the retail sale of milk.

Senate Bill 434 would allow milk processors to apply for Department of Agriculture approval to exceed the 17-day limitation by moving to a science-based “open code” format.  The legislation establishes testing requirements and standards, including dairy laboratory criteria, bacterial testing of samples and continued periodic testing, which must be met for milk processors to receive Department approval.   

“Consumers rank freshness, as determined by the date code indicated, as the most important attribute when purchasing milk,” said Senator Vogel, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee. “The current 17-day requirement is not realistic when it comes down to milk’s actual shelf life. In addition, it makes it impossible for processors to bid to provide milk to those who want to sell through national food suppliers and wholesalers.  Those suppliers typically require a longer “sell by” date interval, which prevents Pennsylvania farmers from receiving these contracts. It is important that we level the playing field to enable our dairy farmers to compete in the marketplace.”

 

Click for audio of Senator Vogel’s comments on his bill.

CONTACT:               Cara Laudenslager                  claudenslager@pasen.gov

State Senate Approves Yaw Measure Regulating Lawn Fertilizer Application, Updating 1956 Act

HARRISBURG – A bill aimed at modernizing Pennsylvania’s 1956 Fertilizer Act was overwhelmingly approved today by the state Senate, according to prime sponsor, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23).

“Pennsylvania’s Fertilizer Act was first passed in 1956 and has not been substantially modernized since,” Sen. Yaw said.  “The updates I am proposing, in consultation with industry and state agencies, will unquestionably reduce the environmental impact of fertilizer applied to lawn and turf areas, while ensuring that the land will be able to receive adequate nutrients.  Homeowners investing in lawn care services have no way to know if the employees applying fertilizer to their yards are properly trained, and the Department of Agriculture has no authority to investigate irresponsible or illegal applications.  This bill will change that.”

Senate Bill 251 will establish best management practices for the use of fertilizer; creates a certification program for commercial and public applicators of fertilizer; promotes homeowner and private agricultural fertilizer education through public outreach; enhances required labeling of all fertilizer products; provides for the exemption of local laws and regulations; re-establishes enhanced reporting requirements and provides a broad-based increase of fees, while repealing the separate classification for small package fees for inspections.

“The bill seeks to level the playing field so everyone, not just farmers, can decrease nutrient run-off and be part of the solution for cleaner Pennsylvania waters,” Sen. Yaw added.

Similar legislation has already been enacted in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, and the industry has expressed a strong desire for consistency across the region and state.

Several organizations voiced support for the measure including The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, the world’s largest marketer and distributor of lawn and garden products.

“As a fertilizer manufacturer, we know the importance of applying fertilizer in order to maintain a healthy lawn, said Robert Luria, Manager, Government Relations, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.  “It is to our advantage if consumers use the products as directed and as they are intended, and we are glad to support responsible application.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and Trout Unlimited also weighed-in, supporting Senate Bill 251.

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

For more state-related news and information, visit Senator Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.

CONTACT:

Nick Troutman
(717) 787-3280

Sunday Hunting Bill Formally Signed into Law

Governor Wolf today (December 17) formally signed legislation allowing hunting on up to three Sundays each year, according to Senator Dan Laughlin (R-49), prime sponsor of the measure.

 The new law provides for hunting on three Sundays: one during rifle deer season, one during the statewide archery deer season and one on a Sunday determined by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The measure makes trespassing while hunting a primary offense and increases the penalties for the offense. The new law further provides that hunters must have the written permission of the landowner to hunt on private property on any Sunday.

Contact:           Matt Azeles                 mazeles@pasen.gov   (717) 787-8927

Sunday Hunting Bill Signed into Law

Legislation allowing hunting on up to three Sundays each year was signed into law today (November 27), according to Senator Dan Laughlin (R-49), prime sponsor of the measure.

The new law provides for hunting on three Sundays: one during rifle deer season, one during the statewide archery deer season and one on a Sunday determined by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The measure makes trespassing while hunting a primary offense and increases the penalties for the offense. The new law further provides that hunters must have the written permission of the landowner to hunt on private property on any Sunday.

“Lifting the archaic ban on Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania has been a long time in coming, 337 years, in fact,” said Senator Laughlin, Chairman of the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee. “I want to thank my colleague, Senator Jim Brewster, the Democratic Chairman of the Game & Fisheries Committee for his support of this measure and I truly appreciate the hard work of the hunters and the many organizations who helped make this law a reality. In the end, we were able to bring the various stakeholders together and work out a compromise that gives sportsmen and sportswomen more opportunities to enjoy the activity that they love.”

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Contact:           Matt Azeles                 mazeles@pasen.gov   (717) 787-8927               

 

Audio Video of Senator Laughlin’s remarks on November 18 from the Senate floor on his Sunday hunting bill.

PA Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee Advances Three More Bills to Full Senate

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), today held a voting meeting to consider and report three measures to the full Senate, including bills to promote stream cleaning, increasing the cap on grants for household hazardous waste collection events and requiring DEP to forward notices of noncompliance.

In his opening comments, Senator Yaw highlighted the bills on the agenda, starting with Senate Bill 679, which directs the Environmental Quality Board to develop regulations that authorize counties to adopt a program for “stream cleaning” and maintenance and the removal of obstructions and flood-related hazards from local waterways.

“Maintaining our streams and waterways has been an issue across my Senate District for years,” Sen. Yaw said.  “Just like we take care of roads, we need to have a program that takes care of our streams.  In recent years, there have been a number of instances where microbursts have created all kinds of issues, a lot of which are created due to obstructions in the streams.  We need to have them properly maintained and this bill will provide a framework.”

During the meeting, the Committee also considered Senate Bill 766, a measure updating the state’s household hazardous waste collection program.  The bill increases the cap on grants for household hazardous waste collection events during each fiscal year from $100,000 to $250,000.

Additionally, House Bill 476, which requires DEP to forward notices of noncompliance from the US EPA under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to the municipality where the violation occurred, was also considered.

All three measures were approved and reported to the full Senate for consideration. 

For more committee-related news and information visit https://environmental.pasenategop.com/, Senator Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.

 

Sen. Gene Yaw and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell (left) listen to Joe Reighard, Chairman of the Gamble Township Board of Supervisors, Lycoming County, during a tour of area streams and waterways, as well as surrounding infrastructure projects last year.

 

 

CONTACT:  Nick Troutman, Executive Director
(717) 787-3280

 

 

 

Senator Vogel’s Farming Legacy Bill Signed into Law

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Senator Elder Vogel’s “farming legacy” bill, a key measure to help promote and support Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry into the future, was signed into law by the Governor on Tuesday (July 2).

Senator Vogel’s measure, Senate Bill 478 (Act 65 of 2019), provides a personal income tax credit for landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers. Landowners will receive a one-time personal income tax credit for the sale or a multi-year lease of property. The legislation requires all leases be enforced through written agreements and that the sale of property be for fair market value in order to qualify for the tax credit.

For every farmer under the age of 35 in Pennsylvania there are four farmers over the age of 65. Of the 7.7 million acres of farmland across Pennsylvania, 41 percent is managed by a farmer 55 years of age or older and 11 percent of that land is expected to transfer in the next five years.

“The facts clearly show the ‘graying’ of Pennsylvania’s farming industry. That is an issue that we need to quickly address as a state. I have heard throughout the state that the top hurdle facing new farmers is finding affordable farmland,” said Senator Vogel. “The tax credits provided under this new law will reward landowners who help new farmers get started. None of our neighboring states offer a similar tax credit program, so this is a great way to show the agriculture community that Pennsylvania is open for business.”

The agriculture industry generates more than $7.5 billion in cash receipts annually. Senator Vogel was a key speaker at a Monday (July 1) press conference promoting Pennsylvania’s support for agriculture. Audio Video More information about farming in Pennsylvania is available at https://issue.pasenategop.com/farming/ and SenatorElderVogel.com.

CONTACT:               Matt Parido                 (717) 787-3076

Ward, Gregory Say Dairy Industry Hurt by Governor’s Veto

HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that would have exempted milk haulers from travel bans imposed during a declaration of disaster emergency, meaning dairies will have to dump milk and lose revenue when roads are closed, according to Sen. Judy Ward (R-Blair/Cumberland/Franklin/Fulton/Huntingdon) and Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair).

The House and Senate passed House Bill 915 that would have allowed milk haulers to use their discretion when roads are otherwise closed for disaster emergencies like snowstorms. The governor vetoed that measure Tuesday.

“At a time when our dairy industry is already facing serious challenges, it is disappointing that Gov. Wolf has made a choice that makes it even harder on the industry to get their products to market,” said Ward, who sponsored companion legislation in the Senate. “The bill was developed with a great deal of input and struck a balance between the safety of the public and getting milk to market. Milk haulers are some of the most experienced drivers on the road and are accustomed to driving in inclement weather. It is disheartening that with all the bills signed into law this week to help farmers that this was not included.”

“Cows don’t stop producing milk when it snows. By prohibiting the dairy industry from transporting its products, the governor is essentially telling farmers to pour profits down the drain,” Gregory said. “We should be able to trust professional haulers to evaluate the conditions and transport this perishable product when possible.”

Several hundred farmers advocated for the measure as part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s State Legislative Conference in March.

New Measures to Support Pennsylvania Farmers Signed into Law

See all the Farming First bills here.

HARRISBURG – A broad package of bills to support Pennsylvania agriculture and encourage new generations of farmers to continue the state’s rich farming heritage were signed by the Governor, including several measures introduced and supported by Senator Judy Ward (R-30).

Ward sponsored Senate Bill 661, which would create four new programs to support the agriculture community – the Agricultural Business Development Center, Agriculture and Youth Development Grants (SB 660, Ward), the Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program, and the Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

“Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the state, and it helps drive our local economy. That is why we need to listen to the most serious concerns of farmers and take action where we can to help,” Ward said. “Both of my bills will help promote Pennsylvania agricultural operations and promote agriculture for future generations of farmers. Along with the rest of the bills in the package, we have taken some extremely positive steps to help current and future generations of farmers.”

Other bills in the package include

  • SB 478, which would establish a tax credit program for landowners to lease or sell farmland to future generations of farmers.
  • SB 585, which would create the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission to review and make recommendations to promote and strengthen the Commonwealth’s dairy industry.
  • SB 338, which would update Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code to allow the transportation of farm equipment that exceeds the current width allowable by law.
  • SB 634, which would create the Conservation Excellence Grant Program to provide technical and financial assistance for agricultural operations to implement conservation best management practices.
  • HB 370, which would amend the Agricultural Area Security Law to allow farmers more discretion regarding the construction and subdivision of residences on preserved farmland.
  • HB 1514, which would renames the current Healthy Farms Healthy Schools program as the Farm-to-School Program and make improvements to the program.
  • HB 1516, which would create the Agriculture Rapid Response Disaster Readiness program to respond to diseases, pests, invasive species, declared disasters and other threats to the agriculture industry.
  • HB 1520, which would create the Very Small Meat Processor Federal Inspection Reimbursement Grant Program to help these businesses comply with federal inspection standards.
  • HB 1526, which would revise the Agriculture Linked Investment Program for the implementation of agricultural and conservation best management practices.
  • HB 1590, which would establish the existing Dairy Investment Program in state law to support research and development, transition to organic, marketing projects and value-added process projects in the dairy industry.

 

CONTACT:  Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490

Senate Approves Sunday Hunting Bill

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The Senate today (June 26) approved legislation that would empower the Pennsylvania Game Commission to allow hunting on up to three Sundays, according to Senator Dan Laughlin (R-49) prime sponsor of the bill.

“I was pleased to work with my colleague Jim Brewster to move this bill forward. Today was a historic vote, as it takes a major step toward increasing recreational opportunities for the thousands of Pennsylvania sportsmen and women who enjoy hunting,” said Senator Laughlin. “This will remove one of only two ‘Blue Laws’ remaining in the state of Pennsylvania. You can’t hunt and you can’t buy a car on Sunday in Pennsylvania.”

Senate Bill 147 also would amend the Pennsylvania Game Code to address the offense of trespass while hunting. It would make the violation a primary offense and as well as increase the penalties.

“Weekends are the only free time for many hunters,” Senator Laughlin said. “Those two days are essentially the only time that most working men and women can get out into the woods. The same could be said for many young people, the ones who represent the future of the sport. Lifting the ban will give them increased opportunities to pursue the activity that they love.”

Senate Bill 147 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

Contact:         Matt Azeles          mazeles@pasen.gov   (717) 787-8927