Farm Bureau recommendations signed into law in Pennsylvania

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CAMP HILL, Pa. – Several bills advanced by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau have been signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell.
House Bill 2387 updates and further defines the certification, sale and distribution of plant seed in Pennsylvania. The bill is designed to ensure seed packages contain exactly what is on the label, the seed contained is reasonably free of weeds and inert matter, and the seed will germinate at the germination rate listed on the label.
Prohibits prohibiting. The bill also contains an amendment advocated by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau that will pre-empt ordinances by local governments prohibiting the use of genetically modified food seeds. The bill takes effect in 60 days.
Senate Bill 912 establishes a permanent program for payments by the state Department of Agriculture to help farmers obtain crop insurance. The payments could cover up to 10 percent of premium costs.
The state has budgeted money each year to help farmers buy crop insurance. Senate Bill 912 will guarantee the program continues in the future. The bill also requires the Department of Agriculture to establish a program to educate producers of agricultural commodities to the benefits of federal crop insurance and risk management practices.
Cost effective. “The program makes good financial sense, because the crop insurance subsidies are far cheaper than payments for crop losses,” said bureau President Carl Shaffer. The bill takes effect in 60 days.
Senate Bill 871 clarifies the jurisdiction, appointment and accountability of Pennsylvania’s Humane Society police officers. The bill prohibits an individual agent of a Humane Society from enforcing animal cruelty laws in any county unless the court of that county grants authority to that agent.
The Humane Society police officer will be required to apply for and be granted enforcement authority by the county court in every county the officer wants to enforce animal cruelty laws.
If a Humane Society police officer abuses his or her authority, individuals or local communities of the county where the abuse occurred can go to court to suspend or revoke the officer’s enforcement authority.
Accountability. “The vast majority of Humane Society police officers do a fine job, but those who exceed their authority should be held accountable,” said Shaffer.
The legislation also establishes penalties for anyone convicted of impersonating a Humane Society officer. It will take effect in 180 days.
Modernizes vehicle laws. Senate Bill 938 is designed to make the state vehicle code less restrictive on farming equipment. The bill, which was initiated by the Farm Bureau, makes two changes to the state vehicle code. It will increase to 11 feet from 10 feet the maximum width of a vehicle used to transport produce or forage crops on a public roadway during daylight hours, and it will increase to 1,200 pounds the maximum weight and 60 inches the maximum width for ATV’s used for agriculture purposes.
Over the years, farm equipment has increased in size and weight, but the laws overseeing the movement and operation of that equipment have not changed.

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