“Farming First” Boosts Opportunities for PA Farmers

Introduction

In recognition of the tremendous contributions of Pennsylvania’s agriculture community to the state economy and heritage, the Pennsylvania Senate is advancing key proposals to ensure farming operations remain an important part of the state’s future.

The seven bills in the “Farming First” package are focused on helping Pennsylvania agricultural operations remain competitive and profitable for current and future generations of farmers. They include:

  • A tax credit program for landowners to lease or sell farmland to future generations of farmers.
  • The creation of a Dairy Summit in Pennsylvania to bring together all stakeholders in the industry.
  • Exempting milk haulers from travel bans imposed during a declaration of disaster emergency.
  • Changes to the state’s farmland preservation program to allow farmers more flexibility for building or subdividing residences.
  • Updating Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code to allow the transportation of large farm equipment.
  • Easing restrictions on the use of farmland for farm-related tourism and entertainment activities.
  • Setting commonsense safety standards and removing costly requirements for barn weddings and other social events on farms.
 

Helping Beginning Farmers

For every four farmers in Pennsylvania over the age of 65, there is only one farmer under 35.
Of the 7.7 million acres of farmland across Pennsylvania, 41 percent is managed by a farmer 55 years of age or older, and 11 percent of that land is expected to transfer in the next five years.

Senate Bill 478, sponsored by Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Elder Vogel (R-47), would provide a personal income tax credit for landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers. The one-time credit – which is patterned after a successful program in Minnesota – would provide a strong incentive for landowners to work with beginning farmers to ensure farmland remains in productive use for future generations.

Supporting PA Dairy Farmers

Pennsylvania dairy farming is one of the most important parts of Pennsylvania’s agriculture economy, supporting 52,000 jobs and contributing $14.7 billion to the state’s economy. However, challenging market conditions have created a serious threat to the livelihood of many dairy farmers.

Senate Bill 585, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), would call for the creation of the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission to bring together state agencies and other stakeholders to discuss the challenges facing dairy farmers and recommend solutions. A similar approach in New York has yielded positive reviews.

Senate Bill 588, sponsored by Senator Judy Ward (R-30) and Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) exempts milk haulers from travel bans imposed during a declaration of disaster emergency. Dairy producers and processers often have to dispose of milk due to travel bans, rather than have it transported to market.

Providing Farmland Preservation Options

Current law allows farmers to create one additional farmstead residence, but it does not allow farmers to relinquish this right or to subdivide an existing residence on their property.

Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), would allow farmers more discretion regarding the construction and subdivision of residences on farmland. The change would make it easier to pass farmland on to the next generation at a lower cost.

Keeping PA Farmers Competitive

Farm machinery has grown in size and has become more technologically advanced. Specialized commercial services such as custom harvesting, planting and hauling are becoming a critical component of Pennsylvania’s agricultural operations. The standard width for many combines is in excess of the current 16-foot width restriction for road transport.

Senate Bill 338, sponsored by Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-35), would increase the allowable width to 18 feet, removing the risk of farmers being cited merely while performing farming duties on their own land. Pennsylvania farmers need to be able to transport the most modern machinery to state competitive.

Increasing PA Agritourism & Agritainment

For many farm families, the crops and animals in the fields are not the only source of revenue they depend on. Barn weddings, corn mazes, hayrides and other agritourism and agritainment activities are growing in popularity, and they are a critical source of income for many agriculture operations.

Under current law, each individual farmland preservation board sets its own standards for defining or allowing agritourism activity; some boards prevent farm owners from hosting these events altogether. Other venues are prohibited from hosting barn weddings and other social events because the buildings lack certain safety features – such as sprinkler systems – that are extremely costly to install.

Senate Bill 583, sponsored by Senator Ryan Aument (R-36), would set uniform standards allowing agritourism on farms protected by the state farmland preservation program.

Senate Bill 453, sponsored by Senator Judy Ward (R-30), would allow farmers to apply for an annual exemption to certain costly requirements that are included in the state’s Uniform Construction Code for buildings that host weddings, receptions and similar events.

PA Senate GOP’s Enduring Commitment to Farmers

The “Farming First” package is designed to build on the longstanding efforts of PA Senate Republicans to support Pennsylvania’s farm families and maintain agriculture’s status as the state’s top industry.

Senate Republicans led the fight last year to create the Pennsylvania Dairy Industry Investment Program, which is designed to improve the production, processing and distribution of dairy products throughout the state.

Over the past four years, Senate Republicans have also worked to restore more than $15 million in cuts proposed by Governor Wolf to critical programs supporting the agriculture community, including livestock and open dairy shows, food marketing and research, hardwoods research and promotion, agricultural research and Agricultural Excellence.

 

Latest News

 

Ag Committee Approves Two “Farming First” Measures

The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee today approved two bills included in the “Farming First” legislative package that will help promote and support Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, according to Committee Chairman Senator Elder Vogel (R-47).