Concerns over cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and overall spending, sunk the 2013 Farm Bill in the House of Representatives. The bill failed 195 to 234, with every Democratic member of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation voting against the bill. Pennsylvania Republicans Scott Perry, Pat Meehan, Bill Shuster, Keith Rothfus, and Joseph Pitts also voted against the bill. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman expressed disappointment following the bill’s defeat. “It was a balanced bill that would have provided much needed risk management tools and a viable economic safety net for America’s farmers and ranchers,” Stallman said. An amendment to the Farm Bill that would have added new work requirements of individuals receiving food assistance siphoned Democratic support from the bill and some Republican lawmakers also sought more reform, AFBF said. Members of the Senate previously adopted their own versions of the Farm Bill, a bipartisan move that cut spending but also gave strong safety net and risk management tools to farmers. Prior to the House vote on Thursday, several news agencies reported the President was considering a veto of the bill because of cuts to food assistance.
Week ending August 6, 2010
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Farm Bureau-Supported Chesapeake Bay Bill Advances
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau hailed the recent advancement of H.R. 5509, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act, as a practical way to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay without crippling farmers, businesses and communities located within the Bay Watershed. The bill, introduced by Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Holden (D -17th), Vice Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, was unanimously approved last week by the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. The Holden bill takes a much more constructive approach to improving water quality than Maryland Senator Ben Cardin’s legislation, which would provide the Environmental Protection Agency unbridled authority to place cost prohibitive and unnecessary regulations on all farming activities and land uses.
PFB Seeks Daily Dairy Price Reporting
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau contacted Pennsylvania U.S. Senators Casey and Specter last week urging them to support a proposal to report prices on a daily basis instead of weekly under legislation that would establish an electronic price reporting system for dairy products. However, the provision was not included during Senate Agriculture Committee markup of S. 3656 that extends mandatory livestock price reporting by USDA for five years and creates a weekly electronic price reporting system for dairy.
Environmental Coordinators Host DEP Tour
PA Farm Bureau’s County Environmental Coordinator program hosted a farm tour for the state Department of Environmental Protection’s northwestern region last week. A group of 33 people including DEP staff visited several operations in Crawford County to see the impact of some of the environmental measures being implemented by local farmers. Stops included a dairy farm operated by Don and Jack Bortnick with the first methane digester in the county, the Dave and Charlene Bish dairy farm which utilized state and federal grants to improve manure handling and water runoff and a farm operated by Sydney, Judy and Scott Martin which used federal help to plant trees for streambank erosion control. More tours are planned in other DEP regions. The tours are part of a longstanding cooperative program between DEP and PFB to improve the handling of environmental complaints involving agriculture.
PFB President Meets With Newspaper Editors
PA Farm Bureau President Carl T. Shaffer met with the editorial boards of newspapers in Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton this week. Among topics discussed were the future of Pennsylvania agriculture and the challenges currently facing farmers including the increased pressure from the federal government to step up Chesapeake Bay clean up efforts. Afterwards, Shaffer hosted “town hall” meetings to discuss Farm Bureau programs and take questions from farmers in the area.
Farm Bureau Working for Passage of Estate Tax Amendment
Farm Bureau is backing legislation that would permanently reform the federal estate tax. H.R. 5297 would permanently set the estate tax rate at 35 percent, with a $5 million exemption phased in over 10 years and indexed for inflation. Estate taxes can hit farm families harder than other small business owners because 84 percent of farm assets are real estate-based. If Congress does not act this year, the federal estate tax is scheduled to increase to 55 percent with only a $1 million exemption at the beginning of 2011.
New Mobile Ag Lab Tours Northern PA
The Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation, a charitable organization supported by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, took the newest Mobile Agriculture Education Science Lab on tour to four locations in northern Pennsylvania this week. Visits took place in Potter, Tioga, Wayne and Lackawanna counties to give the public and news media a chance to tour and learn more about the ag education initiative. The new Mobile Ag Lab, accompanied by a certified educator, will make visits throughout northeast PA beginning this fall to teach students about agriculture using hands-on science experiments.
Visit PFB’s Building at Ag Progress Days
PA Farm Bureau has planned numerous activities, including a learning booth for young visitors and an educational display on food myths, along with information on a wide variety of agricultural issues during Ag Progress Days, August 17-19. PFB’s exhibit building is located at East Fifth and Main Street on the Ag Progress Days grounds in Rock Springs. Representatives will be available to answer questions and provide information on the following PFB programs: Governmental Affairs and Communications, MSC Business Services, the Friends of Agriculture Foundation, the Young Farmer & Rancher, Women’s Leadership and Promotion and Education committees, Safemark, Health Services, plus a host of Member Benefits including a new opportunity to earn rewards for your electric use through programs offered by Energy Plus. In addition, Nationwide farm certified agents will be available to discuss your insurance needs. PFB Legal Service Plan attorney Gary Heim will also be at the MSC Business Services booth on Wednesday, Aug. 18 for consultations on legal issues. The PFB building will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday of the show and until 4 p.m. on Thursday. For more about Ag Progress Days, link to http://agsci.psu.edu/apd
Participation Urged at Food Safety & Quality Summit
Representatives of the food industry including agricultural growers, food processors and distributors are invited to participate at a Food Safety & Quality Summit on Wed. Aug. 11 at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, 326 Market Street, Harrisburg. Registration and a continental breakfast begin at 7:30 a.m. The program starts at 8:15 a.m. The session will provide timely updates on pending federal food safety legislation, what the state is doing to monitor and plan for the impact of proposed requirements on Pennsylvania’s food industry. Growers and other farmers will have an opportunity to provide input during a one-hour “Breakout Session” at 10:50 a.m., which PFB has been invited chair. To encourage participation, PFB will cover the $35 registration cost for the first ten (10) PFB members who contact Brynn Kepler at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 761-2740 by 4:00 on Monday August 9. More information about the event is available by calling (717) 236-4300 or online at http://www.centralpennbusiness.com/events/details/35-food-safety-a-quality-summit?xref=38
House Ag Committee Approves Veterinary Investment Act
Legislation supported by Farm Bureau to relieve veterinary shortages has been unanimously approved by the U.S. House Agriculture. The Veterinary Services Investment Act (VISA) would authorize a competitive grant program to address veterinary shortage situations and support veterinary services. Grants would assist states in addressing their own unique veterinary workforce needs through a wide array of activities including recruiting and retaining practicing veterinarians and veterinary technicians to work in underserved areas and other initiatives.
Regulation to Reduce Sulfur Content of Heating Oil Advances
The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) has approved a proposed regulation that would require lowering the sulfur content of heating oil sold within the state from 500 parts per million (ppm) to 15 ppm by next May. The limit would mirror federal ultra low sulfur requirements for both on-road and off-road diesel. EQB’s low sulfur rule will be subject to three public hearings and a 60-day comment period.
EPA to Extend Spill Prevention Deadline
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a one-year extension of its deadline for requiring oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans by facilities including farms. The new deadline – which only applies to farms and ranches which have come into operation since 2002 – would be November, 2011. Farms in operation before 2002 are already under SPCC requirements and should have a plan in place or updated to comply with the new requirements. Information about the requirements can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ceppo/web/docs/oil/spcc/spccfarms.pdf and in the RegulAid insert in the July-August Country Focus.
Crop Insurance Going “Combo” For 2011
A new Common Crop Insurance Policy, also known as the Combo Policy, will be the basis for federal crop insurance coverage starting with the 2011 crop year. It combines the Actual Production History (APH), Crop Revenue Coverage (CRC), Revenue Assurance (RA), Income Protection (IP) and Indexed Income Protection (IIP) policies into a single policy. Crop provisions have been revised to provide either revenue protection or yield protection insurance for barley, canola and rapeseed, corn, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, sunflowers and wheat. For farmers with crop insurance, your policy will automatically convert to the coverage most similar to the type of policy you already had. If you do not wish to make changes to your crop insurance policy for the 2011 crop year, then no additional paperwork is required. More information is available from crop insurance agents.