SALEM, Ohio – When legislators signed an amendment to Pennsylvania’s Right to Farm Act last week, they said yes to the future of agriculture, according to the legislation’s supporters.
The measure, which has been stalled in the state legislature for several years, holds local governments financially responsible for making laws that don’t comply with the state.
Both the Senate and House approved the legislation and it now awaits Gov. Edward Rendell’s signature.
Patchwork of laws. According to the state Farm Bureau, farms cannot operate “under a patchwork of separate laws and regulations” if each township were able to adopt its own agricultural regulations.
Many Pennsylvania communities have either adopted local ordinances or considered them, making it difficult for farms to expand.
The bill does not give or take any power from the townships because local governments’ rules already cannot supersede those of the state.
It does, however, require the local government to pay a farmer’s court costs if officials, knowingly or recklessly, violated state law when adopting an ordinance.
Conversely, if a farmer sues a township and it is found to be frivolous, the farmer may be required to pay the court costs.
‘False choice.’ “Opponents to House Bill 1222 create a false choice by suggesting that current state laws are insufficient and that local governments should therefore take over the regulation of agriculture,” said Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Guy Donaldson.
“Instead they should suggest and cooperatively work for changes in state and federal laws, if they believe existing regulations are deficient.”
The Farm Bureau contends that although the bill’s opponents want more oversight of large farms, state and federal law already include “stringent environmental safeguards.”