Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding applauded the state legislature for once again funding Governor Tom Wolf’s Pennsylvania Farm Bill in the 2020-21 Pennsylvania Budget. The first-ever Pennsylvania Farm Bill was signed into law in July 2019 and was transformative for the commonwealth’s leading industry.
“We began this journey with the Pennsylvania Farm Bill two years ago, when Governor Wolf laid out his vision to strengthen Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry and secure a prosperous future,” said Redding. “And while no one could predict the toils of 2020, the governor’s 2019 multi-million dollar investment to support the industry that sustains life for us all put infrastructure in place that made 2020 a little less painful for some, and put others in a position to pivot and meet radically altered demand.
“That foresight into what this industry and our commonwealth’s food supply chain needed was spot on, and we look forward to using this next round of funding to strengthen the weak links found as we maneuvered a pandemic,” added Redding.
In 2020, the Center for Poultry & Livestock Excellence, created and funded through the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, provided $280,000 in reimbursement to Pennsylvania’s animal ag industry for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect the workforce. The center also provided guidance to the industry on strengthening biosecurity plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
As communities across the commonwealth faced immense challenges with food insecurity as a result of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, urban communities that took advantage of the PA Farm Bill’s Urban Agriculture Grant program had new infrastructure in place to combat food insecurity by growing their own food and improving access to food for their neighborhoods. The 2019 program funded 28 projects with $500,000.
Pennsylvania’s dairy industry was most notably affected by the pandemic, as rapidly changing markets caused farmers to dump fresh, nutritious milk down the drain. However, some dairy farmers had already diversified their markets and found new opportunities through the PA Farm Bill’s $5 million Dairy Investment Program. The program offered dairy farmers an opportunity to sustain and grow their business through on-farm innovation, organic transition, and diversification through value-added products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. The 2019 program funded 46 projects.
The $16 million 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Bill includes:
Resources for Business Development & Succession Planning
- PA Agricultural Business Development Center, funded at $2 million, to serve as a resource to create business, transition, or succession plans.
- Realty Transfer Tax Exemption for any transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer.
Creating More Processing Capabilities
- Center for Poultry & Livestock Excellence, funded at $1 million, to support the animal ag industry with biosecurity planning and disease prevention, processing capacity, and food safety and quality assurance.
- Incentivizing Access to Meat Processing Inspections, funded at $500,000, to encourage access to new and expanded markets for small or new producers.
Removing Regulatory Burdens
- Resource Enhancement and Protection Tax Credits, expanded by $3 million, to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.
- Conservation Excellence Grant Program, funded at $2 million, to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement best management practices.
- Agriculture Linked Investment Program, funded at $500,000, to re-establish this low interest loan program for the implementation of best management practices.
Strengthening the Ag Workforce
- Agriculture and Youth Grant Program, funded at $500,000, to reestablish this program to fund agricultural and youth organizations to help increase knowledge and awareness of agriculture in the commonwealth.
- The PA Farm to School Grant Program, funded at $500,000, to improve childhood nutrition while increasing exposure to agriculture.
Protecting Agricultural Infrastructure
- PA Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account, funded at $3 million, to allow for quick response to agricultural disasters, such as Spotted Lanternfly or Avian Influenza; or providing an immediate response to a foodborne illness.
Increasing Market Opportunities
- PA Preferred Organic, funded at $1.6 million, to make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state by further enhancing the growth of the organic industry.
- PA Preferred Program, funded at an additional $1 million, to support the program and to bolster enrollment in Homegrown by Heroes.
- State-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, funded at $500,000, to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority horticultural crops like hemp, hops, and hardwoods.
- Urban Agriculture, funded at $500,000, to improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas, the aggregation of product, sharing of resources, and support development efforts.
“As we close what will be known in history books as one of the most challenging years for Pennsylvania agriculture, we look forward to cultivating a brighter tomorrow through this next round of PA Farm Bill funding,” said Redding. “We’ll work to make this industry whole again, using our experiences from 2020 to strengthen our programs for the industry we so clearly rely on.”
For more about the Pennsylvania Farm Bill visit agriculture.pa.gov/pafarmbill. The department is actively working to roll out grant programs for the 2020 funding and will make announcements as programs are available for applications.