HARRISBURG, Pa. — The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Martin Causer, R-Cameron/McKean/Potter, approved a series of bills related to Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Pennsylvania Farm Bill” June 5.
The bills, which are also making their way through the Pa. Senate, support the governor’s proposed $24 million investment in Pennsylvania agriculture, with a focus on opportunities and resources.
The bills approved by the committee include:
House Bill 1516, (Rep. Causer), 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.
House Bill 1348 (Rep. Barbara Gleim, R-Cumberland): Would protect agritourism business from lawsuits where no party is at fault for injuries or damages.
House Bill 1514 (Rep. John Hershey, R-Juniata/Franklin/Mifflin): Would revise and transfer 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 (Rep. David Zimmerman, R-Lancaster): 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 (Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-Philadelphia/Montgomery): 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 and vocational training.
House Bill 1519 (Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia): Would establish a state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in high-priority crops like hemp, hops and hardwoods that are not eligible for the federal grants.
House Bill 1520 (Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington): Would create a grant program to reimburse federal meat inspection costs for small or new processors.
House Bill 1521 (Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne): Would amend the existing PA Preferred agricultural commodities marketing program to bolster enrollment in the veteran farmer Homegrown by Heroes Program.
House Bill 1523 (Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon): 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.
House Bill 1526 (Rep. Rich Irvin, R-Huntingdon/Centre/Mifflin): 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.
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