Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry plays a vital role in all aspects of life across the state. It supplies fresh foods and drinks to Pennsylvanians and to people beyond our state’s and nation’s borders. It helps drive our economy, suppling 280,500 direct jobs and nearly 300,000 in-direct jobs.
Locally, farming is a huge part of our lives here in York County. Hop in a car and drive about 20 minutes in any direction from York’s Continental Square, and you’ll encounter a farm.
With a rich history, agriculture is as much a part of our daily lives today as it was 200 years ago and will be for hundreds of years to come. The House – led by state Rep. Martin Causer (R- Cameron/McKean/Potter) – passed a package of bills to help Pennsylvania agriculture grow. Nearly all the bills were signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf. This package included my House Bill 370, now Act 33 of 2019
, which provides more options to farmers who graciously preserve their land.
Under previous law, farmers could subdivide a section of land from a preserved property to construct a home. However, they were not permitted to subdivide a portion of the property if a house is already on it. This law gives farmers the ability to subdivide already-constructed homes from preserved property without penalty. This is a commonsense solution to a problem and will hopefully attract more farmers to preserving their lands.
Other initiatives in the package will help to protect the state’s food supply and animal health, will combat threats to both crops and livestock and will assist farmers with the cost and expertise to further implement best management practices on their farms. The package also aims to support Pennsylvania’s dairy industry, educate young people about the importance of agriculture, and prepare the next generation of farmers.
To educate our children about the benefits of farming, one of the new laws creates the Farm to School Grant Program for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students to support increased nutrition and agriculture education. Another bill re-establishes the Agriculture and Youth Development grant program, which supports workforce development initiatives for agriculture and youth organizations such as FFA and 4-H. This law will help bring more young folks into the world of agriculture.
Sadly, we’ve seen over the years a lack of younger people going into farming. In fact, the average age of a farmer in Pennsylvania is over 50. If we want agriculture to continue to be the state’s top industry, we must breathe new life into the industry in the form of the next generation of farmers taking the reins of our family farms.
Another law to help attract younger people to farming and to aid veterans creates a grant program to reimburse for federal meat inspection costs incurred by small or new processors and encourages veterans to participate in the PA Preferred and Homegrown by Heroes program.
Coupled with the recently enacted 2019-20 state budget, these measures will truly help grow the Commonwealth’s top industry. Included in the budget is an overall increased investment in agriculture of $19.5 million or 12.7%. Recognizing the importance of animal health, new line items devote $2 million to the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission and $1 million to livestock and consumer health protection.
While we are continuing to work in the statehouse to improve agriculture, we recognize there is work to be done at the federal level. That’s why I, and many colleagues, threw our support behind two bills pending action in Congress to help the dairy industry as well as our children.
The “Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019” would allow flavored and unflavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias to give students more choice, while the Dairy PRIDE Act would protect the integrity of dairy products by calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce existing labeling requirements for milk. Essentially, non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds and plants could no longer be marketed as milk, yogurt or cheese – because let’s just be honest, you can’t “milk” an almond or a soybean.
The General Assembly worked hard to create this comprehensive package, which gained bi-partisan support, to help Pennsylvania agriculture not only grow, but thrive for years to come. These initiatives will have far-reaching impacts on the state, the people who live here and our economy.
Representative Kate A. Klunk
169th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross