Agriculture and Dairy Industry Take Center Stage in State Capitol

(HARRISBURG) – Recognizing the importance of agriculture to Pennsylvania’s economy, the Senate recently passed several measures to support farmers and held a hearing to explore ways to promote the dairy industry, according to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34).

A public hearing of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee included a detailed discussion about the current state of the dairy industry. Pennsylvania dairy farming supports 52,000 jobs and contributes $14.7 billion to the state’s economy, Senator Corman said.

“The dairy industry in particular is going through a crisis,” Corman said in his remarks at the hearing. “We are prepared to roll up our sleeves and do whatever we can to provide solutions. We will partner with the administration to improve the lot for our dairy farmers in Pennsylvania. It’s time we all identify this as a crisis and take action to assist this important industry.”

The Senate also approved Senate Resolution 403 designating June as Dairy Month in Pennsylvania. A separate resolution (Senate Resolution 382) encouraged the federal Food and Drug Administration to end the practice of companies using misleading labeling on non-dairy products.

Also last week, the Senate endorsed Senate Resolution 384, which would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study and issue a report making recommendations for initiatives to assist dairy producers in Pennsylvania.

            In addition to the bills promoting the dairy industry, the Senate approved two other measures that will benefit the agriculture community as a whole. The Senate approved Senate Bill 1171, legislation that would give farmers greater input on proposed environmental regulations that could impact their businesses.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 819 to ensure agritourism activities – such as farm tours, hay rides and corn mazes – are authorized on farms that are part of the state’s farmland preservation program.

These actions are in addition to new state budget that restores funding to a number of critical programs under the Department of Agriculture that Governor Wolf sought to eliminate in his February budget proposal. Governor Wolf called for a $2 million cut to agriculture programs in next year’s budget, but the spending deal passed by the legislature increases funding to the department by more than $7 million next year over the current year’s budget.

Some of the line items restored or increased by lawmakers in the tentative deal include:

  • Agricultural Excellence — $1.33 million,
  • Agricultural Research — $2.18 million,
  • Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports — $303,000,
  • Hardwoods Research and Promotion — $424,000,
  • Livestock Show — $215,000,
  • Open Dairy Show — $215,000,
  • State Food Purchase — $500,000,
  • Food Marketing and Research — $494,000.

The budget approved by the General Assembly provides $3 million to combat the invasive pest the Spotted Lanternfly, increasing funding for that initiative by $1.4 million above the Governor’s request. The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species that threatens the grape, hops and logging industries. Products in 13 Pennsylvania counties remain under quarantine to prevent the pest from spreading to other parts of the state.

 

CONTACT: Jenn Kocher (717) 787-1377 or jkocher@pasen.gov