WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf’s vision of a path to longtime prosperity for Pennsylvania agriculture came to fruition with the signing into law last week of new legislation establishing the Pennsylvania Farm Bill.
The PA Farm Bill will make $23.1 million in strategic investments into the agriculture industry to grow opportunities and resources, remove barriers to entry, and cultivate future generations of leaders within agriculture.
“The agricultural industry is the backbone of Pennsylvania’s economy. The PA Farm Bill is bold, aggressive, and necessary to protect our farming heritage and inspire the next generation of Pennsylvania farmers,” Wolf said. “Our commonwealth flourishes when Pennsylvanians have access to high-quality, locally sourced products — and when our farmers are competitive in a diverse range of markets.”
Wolf said the historic investments made through the PA Farm Bill will improve the lives of all residents for years to come and create a pathway for a dynamic and prosperous farming economy in Pennsylvania.
The PA Farm Bill will provide support for and continued investments in the commonwealth’s agriculture industry. The bill was modeled after Gov. Wolf’s six-point plan, which he first presented publicly last August at Ag Progress Days.
“In my 20 years of public service, this is the largest investment I’ve ever seen made in Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
The PA Farm Bill will:
Develop new resources for agriculture business development and succession planning
• Invest $2 million to create the Agriculture Business Development Center to support business planning, marketing, diversification, and transition planning services to Pennsylvania farmers.
• Create a realty transfer tax exemption for any transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer.
• Provide for the construction and use of a residence for the landowner or an employee and provides for the subdivision of preserved farmlands.
Increase opportunities for Pennsylvania’s agricultural workforce
• Create the PA Farm to School Grant Program, funded at $500,000, for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students to support increased nutrition and agriculture education.
• Re-establish the Agriculture and Youth Development grant program with an investment of $500,000 to support workforce development initiatives for agriculture and youth organizations such as FFA and 4-H.
Remove regulatory burdens and strengthen the state’s agricultural business climate
• Expand the allowable width for use of implements of agriculture husbandry from 16 feet to 18 feet.
• Allocate $500,000 to the Agriculture Linked Investment Program to provide low-interest loans for conservation practices.
• Support the Conservation Excellence Grant program with $2.5 million to fund best management practices in priority areas of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
• Expand resource enhancement and protection tax credits by $3 million to raise the lifetime cap and increase availability.
Create more processing capabilities
• Expand Pennsylvania’s Dairy Investment Program, funded at $5 million, to support innovation, value-added processing, marketing, and organic transitions in the dairy industry.
• Utilize $500,000 to incentivize access to meat processing inspections for small farmers or butchers to reimburse costs for federal inspection compliance to access new markets.
• Invest $1 million to create the Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence, which will assist with expanding processing capacity, providing technical assistance and resources for food safety compliance and establishing hemp as an approved animal feed.
Increase market opportunities and grow the organic sector
• Invest $500,000 to support a state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant program to invest in priority crops for Pennsylvania, such as hardwoods, hemp, and hops.
• Bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program by providing an additional $1 million to the PA Preferred program.
• Improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas by investing $500,000 in the Urban Agricultural Infrastructure Grant Program.
• Direct $1.6 million in funding to support PA Preferred and create the PA Preferred Organic Initiative to enhance the growth of the organic sector.
Protect agriculture infrastructure
• Continue the fight against the Spotted Lanternfly and create the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account, funded at $4 million, to provide a quick response to the next agricultural disaster, whether animal health, plant health, or food-borne illness.
Program offers free sunscreen
at all state park beaches, pools
Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine last week announced expansion of a program offering visitors free sunscreen at state park beaches and swimming pools throughout Pennsylvania.
“We are extremely grateful that the Department of Health and its Division of Cancer Prevention and Control have partnered with us to support and expand this important project,” Dunn said, speaking at a Gifford Pinchot State Park beach. “In promoting outdoor activity, we’re aware over 8,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each day, and these dispensers should prove invaluable to visitors to our lakes, beaches, and pools who may overlook sunscreen when packing for a day’s outing.”
Beginning in summer 2017, DCNR’S Bureau of State Parks began supplying free sunscreen at Fuller Lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Cumberland County, and at the swimming pool at Codorus State Park in York County. The program now has been expanded to nine state parks.
“We want people to get outside and enjoy the wonderful swimming areas that Pennsylvania state parks offer, all while practicing safe habits,” Levine said. “The free sunscreen offered at state parks allows park visitors to protect themselves from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Sunscreen with SPF 30, or higher, with broad spectrum coverage can help protect the skin from dangerous sunburns and decrease the chances of developing serious health conditions.”
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause numerous health effects such as skin cancer, cataracts and eye cancer. Types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in Pennsylvania, with nearly 3,700 new cases in 2016. One in 40 Pennsylvanians are at risk of developing melanoma in their lifetime. While nearly 90 percent of people who develop melanoma survive, in 2016, 388 people died from this cancer.
At season’s end, the Bureau of State Parks again will evaluate the program to determine if further expansion is warranted. It also is pursuing opportunities to collaborate with local health organizations for future expansion of the program.
Sens. Toomey, Warner introduce measure
recognizing Sept. 11 National Memorial Trail
U.S. Senators Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, and Mark Warner, D-Va., are working together to further honor the heroes of September 11, 2001.
In a bipartisan resolution, Toomey and Warner highlight the significance of the September 11th National Memorial Trail (NMT) — a 1,300 mile network of roads and paths that connect the Pentagon Memorial (Arlington, Va.), the Flight 93 National Memorial (Shanksville,), the National September 11th Memorial and Museum (New York City), and the 9/11 Memorial Garden of Reflection (Yardley). The NMT also passes through parts of Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.
“Sept. 11, 2001 was one of the darkest days in American history, claiming the lives of thousands of American heroes. Pennsylvania remembers that had it not been for the sacrifice of those who overtook the terrorists on Flight 93, it could have been much worse,” Toomey said. “In the wake of these attacks, the very best of our country shined through. First responders performed extraordinary acts of valor, communities from across the country donated food, blood, and money, and we honored those we lost. The September 11th National Memorial Trail connects key landmarks in a way that helps our country move forward positively and offers solemn remembrance to hallowed grounds.”
Warner said the September 11th National Memorial Trail provides an opportunity for Virginians to reflect on those lost and those who sacrificed their lives saving others.
“I am proud to know that our resolution will recognize this important trail and continue to honor the brave individuals who fought for our freedom,” Warner said.