Continuing the commitment to support the state’s No. 1 industry, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Martin Causer, gave overwhelming bipartisan approval to a series of bills to help farmers across the Commonwealth.
“We all want to see our farmers and producers continue to grow and thrive here,” Causer said. “The industry literally puts food on our tables, but it also contributes billions to our economy and supports more than a half million jobs across the state.
“These bills would enact policies to help address some of the challenges facing the industry today so our agricultural traditions can thrive well into the future,” he added.
Among the bills approved by the committee Wednesday is Causer’s House Bill 1516, which would create the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account. Under the bill, the General Assembly would allocate funding to the Department of Agriculture to facilitate a quick response to agricultural disasters, including using animal or plant health officials to contain an outbreak or threat, or providing an immediate response to a foodborne illness.
“With recent and ongoing threats such as avian influenza and spotted lanternfly, it is important we are prepared and able to provide a rapid and well-coordinated response,” Causer said.
Other bills approved by the committee are as follows:
- House Bill 1348: Would protect agritourism business from lawsuits where no party is at fault for injuries or damages. The measure helps operators stay in business by further diversifying their farms.
- House Bill 1514: Would revise and reestablish the existing Healthy Farms Healthy Schools program into the PA Farm-to-School Program, to provide grants for improving childhood nutrition while increasing exposure to agriculture for children in Pre-K through fifth grade.
- House Bill 1517: Would provide the State Conservation Commission with the authority to prioritize projects and provide technical assistance and funding through a mix of grants, low-interest loans and tax credits to help farmers and landowners implement conservation best management practices.
- House Bill 1518: Would reestablish the former Agriculture and Rural Youth Development Program into a new grant program to fund youth organizations that promote development in agriculture, community leadership, vocational training and peer fellowship.
- House Bill 1519: Would establish a state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority crops like hemp, hops and hardwoods that are not eligible for the federal grants.
- House Bill 1520: Would create a grant program to reimburse federal meat inspection costs for small or new processors.
- House Bill 1521: Would amend the existing PA Preferred agricultural commodities marketing program to bolster enrollment in the veteran farmer Homegrown by Heroes Program.
- House Bill 1523: Would establish the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center within the Department of Agriculture to serve as a resource to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan or succession plan. This will help ensure farm operations continue to thrive through ownership changes.
- House Bill 1526: Would reestablish a low-interest loan program administered by the State Conservation Commission in conjunction with lending institutions for the implementation of agricultural and conservation best management practices.
The measures now go to the full House for consideration.