Senate Passes “Farming First” Bills to Support PA Agriculture

HARRISBURG – In recognition of the tremendous contributions of Pennsylvania’s agriculture community to the state’s economy and heritage, the Senate passed five bills today to ensure farming operations remain an important part of the state’s future.

The bills in the “Farming First” package are focused on helping Pennsylvania agricultural operations remain competitive and profitable for current and future generations of farmers. Bills in the package that were passed by the Senate today include:

  • A tax credit program for landowners to lease or sell farmland to future generations of farmers.
  • The creation of the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission to bring together all stakeholders in the industry.
  • Exempting milk haulers from weather-related travel bans.
  • Easing restrictions on the use of farmland for farm-related tourism and entertainment activities.
  • Setting commonsense safety standards and removing costly requirements for barn weddings and other social events on farms.

Senate Bill 478, sponsored by Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Elder Vogel (R-47), would provide a personal income tax credit for landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers. The one-time credit – which is patterned after a successful program in Minnesota – would provide a strong incentive for landowners to work with beginning farmers to ensure farmland remains in productive use for future generations.

Senate Bill 585, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), would call for the creation of the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission to review the status of the dairy industry in the Commonwealth and make recommendations to support the industry’s future in Pennsylvania. The Commission will bring together experts in the industry with leaders in state government and the legislature to explore potential solutions to the challenging market conditions facing dairy farmers.

Senate Bill 588, sponsored by Senator Judy Ward (R-30) and Senator Yaw, would exempt milk haulers from travel bans imposed during a declaration of disaster emergency. The measure would address the unique needs of the dairy industry during weather-related commercial vehicle travel bans. Travel bans have caused many dairy producers and processers to dispose of milk that cannot be legally transported.

Senate Bill 583, sponsored by Senator Ryan Aument (R-36), would set uniform standards allowing agritourism on farms protected by the state farmland preservation program. Under current law, each individual farmland preservation board sets its own standards for defining or allowing agritourism activity; some boards prevent farm owners from hosting these events altogether.

Senate Bill 453, sponsored by Senator Judy Ward, would allow farmers to apply for an annual exemption to certain costly requirements that are included in the state’s Uniform Construction Code for buildings that host weddings, receptions and similar events. The measure would make it easier for farms to host these events by relaxing requirements for some of the most costly and onerous safety features, including sprinkler systems and other features that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to install.

The “Farming First” package is designed to build on the longstanding efforts of Senate Republicans to support Pennsylvania’s farm families and maintain agriculture’s status as the state’s top industry.

Pennsylvania’s 59,000 farm families manage more than 7.7 million acres of farmland. The agriculture industry generates more than $7.5 billion in cash receipts annually.

Senate Republicans led the fight last year to create the Pennsylvania Dairy Industry Investment Program, which is designed to improve the production, processing and distribution of dairy products throughout the state.

Over the past four years, Senate Republicans have also worked to restore a cumulative total of more than $15 million in cuts proposed by Governor Wolf to critical programs supporting the agriculture community, including livestock and open dairy shows, food marketing and research, hardwoods research and promotion, agricultural research and Agricultural Excellence.

The first five bills in the “Farming First” package were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. Additional bills in the package are expected to receive a vote in the Senate on Wednesday.

 

 

CONTACT:
Jenn Kocher (717) 787-1377 (Senator Corman)
Matt Parido (717) 787-3076 (Senator Vogel)
Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490 (Senator Ward)