Committee hears implementation of Pa. Farm Bill
HARRISBURG, Pa. — During the Pennsylvania Farm Show, Senator David C. Argall (R-Berks/Schuykill) chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee, led a hearing on the implementation of the package of farm bills enacted on July 2019.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell C. Redding plus several leaders of Pennsylvania agriculture lent their insight on the advantages and progress of the initiatives generated by the passage of the agricultural bills.
Redding remarked that the agricultural community has been extraordinary.
The reaction has been not only cooperation but the initiatives have raised a lot of hope and opportunity, he explained.
Plus, even more resources are forthcoming, such as the Agricultural Business Development Center’s resource to be announced during the Farm Show.
The next day, Redding opened the $1 million Farm Vitality Grant Program.
Redding noted that all farms are in transition. Marketing is one factor.
The resources in the agricultural bills are broad, reaching urban centers as well.
The package encompassed animal health.
Redding pointed out that Pennsylvania’s keystone position with trade access could enable threats such as strep zoo.
But the access to markets also provides market opportunities.
Sen. Elder Vogel (R–Beaver/Butler/Lawrence), chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, asked Redding about the long-term impacts of the agriculture resources.
Redding described one example of the benefits that grants for small meat processors produced. In 12 counties, 15 projects were funded.
Plus, some seasonal deer processors now have a year-round business, and have fulfilled the local need for livestock processing.
Brett Reinford, the chairman of the Dairy Future Commission, said the Commission was established to strengthen the industry’s processing for dairy farmers.
He reported that four subcommittees have been meeting and plan to have recommendations by August.
The farm level group is studying costs, productivity, labor, regulations and youth encouragement.
The market subcommittee has been evaluating exporting, including more effective use of the Philadelphia port.
The state group is concerned with the milk marketing board, environment regulations, and feed and milk prices.
The consumer subcommittee is investigating innovative products and school milk programs.
Reinford pointed out that the committees may recommend changes in regulations that can include federal ones.
Redding pointed out, “Everything in dairy is complicated.”
Sen. Vogel pointed out how the tax credit is supporting new farmers by introducing Tyler Shaw.
Now a thriving full-time farmer, Shaw, who had no farming background, had a 4-H livestock project when 14 years old.
He struggled to find hay, but not only learned to raise it but how to lease property and perform a livestock operation.
Vogel’s bill introductions, designed to attract young farmers and help them acquire crop land are part of the PA Farm Bill, enacted in 2019.
Raechel Sattazahn, knowledge center director of AgChoice Farm Credit, commented that the credit business is significantly different than ten years ago. Now 40 percent of borrowers are beginning farmers. Many are small farmers as well.
Kurt Fuchs, senior vice president of government affairs of Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, reported that frequently a buyer is middle-age, is transitioning out of agriculture, has sold his dairy cows, but has 50 acres and his equipment.
However, Fuchs said that land sales prices are brisk.
That gives farmers an advantage but unfortunately developers can enter the market as well, he added.
Recently a local heritage pork operation, Fuchs observed, is an example of investment leveraging and has been successful with specialized products.
Fuchs said MAFC has expanded the company’s mental health program to include farmers who need assistance.
Their families, too, can access the program which covers marital counseling, parenting, aging, and identity theft.
Fuchs said the company felt the need to support the community in this difficult agricultural economy.
The executive secretary of the Pennsylvania State Conservation Committee Karl G. Brown related that the costs of best management practices impart a financial burden on farmers particularly.
Of the funding sources of grants, loans and tax credits, he hopes to maximize grants. Projects includes reducing the total maximum daily load in the Chesapeake Bay.
Brown said that Lancaster and York Counties have pilot programs that can assist other counties.
They can help with tools that best fit farmer needs. Financial and educational data are some of the topics the programs address.
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