What You Need to Know About the Pennsylvania Farm Bill

Pennsylvania’s first ever Farm Bill was recently signed into law and provides $24 million in funds to support the agricultural industry. It is designed to increase opportunities in areas such as dairy, hemp and organics and remove barriers for young farmers’ entry into the profession. The bill also decreases some regulatory burdens on farmers. 

The bill is comprehensive, so I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of the areas that might be of most interest or immediately helpful. Here are some of the most interesting parts of the bill:

  • Funding for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to serve as a resource to help  farmers create a business plan, transition plan, or succession plan. 
  • A realty transfer tax exemption for any transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer will be available. 
  • Funding for the dairy industry in the form of  research and development, organic transition assistance, value-added processing, and marketing grants.
  • Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence funding to support the animal agriculture industry by expanding processing capacity, technical assistance, providing resources for food safety compliance, and assisting with the establishment of hemp as an approved animal feed.  
  • A program to reimburse federal meat inspection costs and subsidize the first-time purchase of equipment needed for federal compliance to access to new and expanded markets for small or new producers will be established.
  • Agriculture linked investment program to re-establish this low interest loan program for the implementation of best management practices.
  • Resource enhancement and protection tax credits to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.
  • Expansion of the allowable width for the use of implements of husbandry on roads, such as farm tractors and combines, from 16 feet to 18 feet. 
  • Farm Bill amends the Ag Area Security Act to allow for subdivision of preserved farms.
  • Funding for agricultural and youth organizations.
  • Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account to allow for a quick response to agricultural disasters, including utilizing animal or plant health officials to contain an outbreak or threat, or providing an immediate response to a food borne illness.
  • Increasing market opportunities through funding of the PA Preferred Organic Initiative to make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state, the PA Preferred Program to support the overall program and to bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program, and the State-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority horticultural crops like hemp, hops, and hardwoods. 

There is a lot to take in with this bill, and we will see what the future brings in terms of implementation. In the meantime, more information can be found here:

Governor Wolf’s statement on the PA Farm Bill https://www.governor.pa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/021319-farm-bill.pdf

Information from the PA Department of Agriculturehttps://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Pages/PA-Farm-Bill.aspx

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