HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf’s vision of a path to longtime prosperity for Pennsylvania agriculture came to fruition with the signing into law of new legislation establishing the Pennsylvania Farm Bill. The Pa. Farm Bill will make $23.1 million in strategic investments into the agriculture industry to grow opportunities and resources, remove barriers to entry, and cultivate future generations of leaders within agriculture.
“The agricultural industry is the backbone of Pennsylvania’s economy. The Pa. Farm Bill is bold, aggressive and necessary to protect our farming heritage and inspire the next generation of Pennsylvania farmers,” said Gov. Wolf. “Our commonwealth flourishes when Pennsylvanians have access to high-quality, locally sourced products – and when our farmers are competitive in a diverse range of markets. The historic investments made through the Pa. Farm Bill will improve the lives of all residents for years to come and create a pathway for a dynamic and prosperous farming economy in Pennsylvania.”
The Pa. Farm Bill will provide support for and continued investments in the commonwealth’s agriculture industry, was modeled after Gov. Wolf’s six-point plan, which he first presented publicly last August at Ag Progress Days.
“In my 20 years of public service, this is the largest investment I’ve ever seen made in Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Thanks to Gov. Wolf, this is the beginning of a new era of opportunities for our state’s top industry, and we’re proud to be here to witness it.”
The Pa. Farm Bill will:
Develop New Resources for Agriculture Business Development and Succession Planning
- Invest $2 million to create the Agriculture Business Development Center to support business planning, marketing, diversification, and transition planning services to Pennsylvania farmers.
- Create a realty transfer tax exemption for any transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer.
- Provide for the construction and use of a residence for the landowner or an employee and provides for the subdivision of preserved farmlands.
Increase Opportunities for Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Workforce
- Create the Pa. Farm to School Grant Program, funded at $500,000, for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students to support increased nutrition and agriculture education.
- Re-establish the Agriculture and Youth Development grant program with an investment of $500,000 to support workforce development initiatives for agriculture and youth organizations such as FFA and 4-H.
Remove Regulatory Burdens and Strengthen the State’s Agricultural Business Climate
- Expand the allowable width for use of implements of agriculture husbandry from 16 feet to 18 feet.
- Allocate $500,000 to the Agriculture Linked Investment Program to provide low-interest loans for conservation practices.
- Support the Conservation Excellence Grant program with $2.5 million to fund best management practices in priority areas of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
- Expand Resource Enhancement and Protection Tax Credits by $3 million to raise the lifetime cap and increase availability.
Create More Processing Capabilities
- Expand Pennsylvania’s Dairy Investment Program, funded at $5 million, to support innovation, value-added processing, marketing, and organic transitions in the dairy industry.
- Utilize $500,000 to incentivize access to meat processing inspections for small farmers or butchers to reimburse costs for federal inspection compliance to access new markets.
- Invest $1 million to create the Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence, which will assist with expanding processing capacity, providing technical assistance and resources for food safety compliance and establishing hemp as an approved animal feed.
Increase Market Opportunities and Grow the Organic Sector
- Invest $500,000 to support a state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant program to invest in priority crops for Pennsylvania, such as hardwoods, hemp, and hops.
- Bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program by providing an additional $1 million to the PA Preferred program.
- Improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas by investing $500,000 in the Urban Agricultural Infrastructure Grant Program.
- Direct $1.6 million in funding to support PA Preferred and create the PA Preferred Organic Initiative to enhance the growth of the organic sector.
Protect Agriculture Infrastructure
- Continue the fight against the Spotted Lanternfly and create the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account, funded at $4 million, to provide a quick response to the next agricultural disaster, whether animal health, plant health, or foodborne illness.
— Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture