News from Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, P. O. Box 8736, Camp Hill, PA 17001-8736 . 717-761-2740 . www.pfb.com
Sunday Hunting Legislation Advanced
With a recent Pennsylvania Game Commission decision supporting an expansion of Sunday hunting, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau believes it underscores the looming challenge ahead this year to prevent enactment of Sunday hunting legislation. A divided Game Commission Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 to recommend the change, and immediately following, Rep. John Evans, (R-Crawford and Erie) introduced legislation he earlier promised. The issue is being pushed by groups from outside Pennsylvania including the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance. Those organizations, along with several other sporting groups, have formed the Sunday Hunting Coalition, whose specific goal is to repeal Sunday hunting bans in Pennsylvania and other states. Pennsylvania Farm Bureau strongly opposes Sunday hunting and members have continually said they want one day a week to enjoy their lands without interruption by hunters. While the debate over Sunday hunting has remained a perennial issue in Pennsylvania, Farm Bureau believes this is the most dire and direct threat to overturning the ban in recent memory. “All concerned members are urged to speak out quickly, loudly and clearly to your state Senator and House Representatives before the issue gathers more steam,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer. PFB has a campaign underway to involve Pennsylvania residents, and organizations, who support our position. Look for a story in the July-August edition of Country Focus, which will provide details on how to contact lawmakers.
State Budget Adopted
State lawmakers have adopted a $27.15 billion budget that does not call for a tax increase, or create new taxes, and also restores funding to some agriculture programs. However, the budget cuts funding to Penn State Cooperative Extension by 19 percent. “Pennsylvania’s farm families support the efforts of Governor Corbett and the General Assembly to restore fiscal discipline in our state, but the budget cuts in Cooperative Extension and agriculture research are excessive,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer.
Under the budget signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, funding for Cooperative Extension was reduced to $24.2 million from $29.9 million in the state’s 2011-2012 budget. Similarly, funding for agriculture research was reduced to $20.4 million from its current level of $25.2 million. Penn State officials say the cuts could result in the loss of almost 200 jobs, or nearly 25 percent of existing positions in extension. Lawmakers restored funding to programs administered by the Department of Agriculture including agriculture excellence, ag research, 4H and FFA youth programs, that were eliminated in budget proposals. However, funding was not restored to the crop insurance program, which was eliminated in the Governor’s proposed budget.
Insecticides Approved for Stinkbugs
Fruit growers in Pennsylvania can spray new insecticides to combat damage caused by stinkbugs. Recently, the federal Environmental Protection Agency gave emergency approval for fruit growers to use dinotefuran, with trade names of Venom and Scorpion, on tree fruit. The emergency approval applies to Pennsylvania and neighboring states. Under the approval, growers can apply two applications of the insecticides per season, using ground equipment. For organic growers, the EPA approved products containing azadirachtin and pyrethrins, which are derived from botanical ingredients. Research to combat stinkbug damage continues.
MB Reverses Decision on “Stranded Premiums”
The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) has withdrawn a producer pricing order adopted last year to give the state’s dairy farmers a greater return of premium dollars paid by Pennsylvania consumers for fluid milk. At its July meeting, the PMMB reversed its decision to change the formula for calculating the total amount a dealer must pay in over-order premiums to Pennsylvania farmers supplying milk. Under the formula change, Pennsylvania-produced milk would be presumed to be marked first in dealers’ sales of fluid milk in Pennsylvania. Milk subject to PMMB’s mandated over-order premium must be produced, processed and sold in Pennsylvania. The change in formula attempted to capture a higher share of “stranded” producer premiums collected on every retail purchase of milk by consumers. Shortly after the PMMB adopted its “stranded premium” order, milk dealers filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge that order, and obtained a temporary injunction to block it from going into effect. The PMMB decided to withdraw its adopted order before the case was tried in court.
Farm Bureau Airs Concerns over Proposed CWD Guidelines
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau testified at the Pennsylvania Game Commission meeting in June, expressing concerns on the agency’s plan to revise emergency powers governing chronic wasting disease (CWD). Jeff Grove, PFB Local Affairs Director, told commission members that emergency procedures under consideration could negatively impact commercial deer farmers in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture controls and regulates captive deer and elk herds, but the Game Commission proposed rule changes could cross over the PDA’s authority. The commission’s published changes could restrict movement of deer by farmers who are certified “CWD free” by the PA Department of Agriculture. There are more than 1,000 commercial deer and elk farmers in Pennsylvania. Game Commission officials are reviewing their CWD guidelines after the disease was found in deer in Allegheny County, Maryland within 10 miles of the Pennsylvania border.
Governor Signs Lawsuit Abuse Legislation
Governor Corbett has signed the Fair Share Act, a longtime legislative goal of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau to address lawsuit abuse. Under the new law, defendants found to be less than 60 percent at fault in a liability lawsuit would not have to pay more than their share of the damages, except for awards in circumstances including intentional misrepresentation, an intentional act, an environmental crime or a liquor law violation. Under the previous joint and several liability system, a defendant could potentially be liable for 100% of the damages if other defendants were unable to pay.
Home Builders Sue EPA over Chesapeake Bay Restoration Plan
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s Chesapeake Bay restoration plan. The NAHB lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Scranton, Pa., contends that EPA’s proposed total maximum daily load provisions in the plan exceed the agency’s authority. The lawsuit maintains that EPA relied on flawed computer modeling in ordering states in the Bay watershed to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution by 20 to 25 percent over the next 14 years. NAHB’s lawsuit has been consolidated with one previously filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau on Jan. 10.
Quarrying Bill Signed by Corbett
Gov. Corbett has signed legislation, supported by PFB, to limit rollback taxes on Clean and Green land used for bluestone quarrying. The bill, introduced by Rep. Sandra Major, a Republican who represents parts of Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties, would allow land enrolled in the Clean and Green program to be leased for small non-surface coal mining. Rollback taxes would only be imposed on the portion of land used for mining without jeopardizing the tax status of the rest of the enrolled property.
Bill To Ensure State Regulations Are Based on Reliable Data Signed by Governor
Legislation supported by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau to help ensure that state regulations are based on reliable data and sound science has been approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Corbett. S.B. 263 will expand the scope of review by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) to include the examination of the quality of data, studies, reports and information underlying state regulations being implemented. The state agency seeking to implement a regulation will have the responsibility to provide to the IRRC a sufficient description of any data upon which the regulation is based as well as a detailed explanation of how the data was obtained and why the data is acceptable.
Matt Meals Appointed PDA Deputy Secretary
Matt Meals of Newville has been named Deputy Secretary for Agriculture and Consumer Protection in the Department of Agriculture. He is responsible for the Bureau of Animal Health, Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission, Horse and Harness Racing Commission, Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology Research Laboratory, Livestock Evaluation Center, state-owned farms and other agricultural initiatives. Meals has more than 11 years of professional agricultural experience in farm management where he gained first-hand experience in agricultural finance and farm business management. Meals is a Farm Bureau member and a past chairman of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer & Rancher Committee and the American Farm Bureau Federation YF&R Committee. He co-owns and operates R Valley Farms, a beef and crop farm in Cumberland County. “Matt Meals is a proven leader, who will bring practical experience, energy and enthusiasm to the position,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer. “Despite the many challenges facing farmers, Matt is extremely optimistic about current and future opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers.”