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04/22/2019

Sec. of Agriculture Highlights PA Farm Bill’s Commitment to Conservation on Earth Day

Meadville, PA – Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding today celebrated Earth Day during a visit to Ernst Conservation Seeds in Meadville, where he highlighted the connections to conservation under the proposed PA Farm Bill.

“Ernst Conservation Seeds has a long and rich history of practicing innovative conservation efforts and serving as a leader in environmental stewardship,” said Sec. Redding. “There is no better time or place for us to highlight a commitment to conservation than right here, right now, on Earth Day.”

Founded by Calvin Ernst in 1964, Ernst Conservation Seeds is the largest native seed producer and supplier in the eastern United States. The company grows, processes, and sells hundreds of species of native and naturalized seeds and live plant materials, propagated on more than 9,000 acres in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The PA Farm Bill, a package of legislation that provides support for and continued investments in the commonwealth’s agriculture industry, was modeled after the governor’s six-point plan to cultivate future generations of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry.

A key component would create the Conservation Excellence Grant Program, funded at $2.5 million, to offer financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement best management practices. It would also provide $500,000 for the Agriculture Linked Investment Program, a low-interest loan program for the implementation of best management practices and would expand Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) tax credits by $3 million to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.

Other highlights of the legislation include:

  • Creating the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to serve as a resource to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan, or succession plan to ensure the best chance of success.
  • Incentivizing the transfer of preserved farmland to a new or beginning farmer through the Realty Transfer Tax Exemption.
  • Developing the Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program to fund research and development, organic transition assistance, value-added processing, and marketing grants in support of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.
  • Addressing issues within the animal agriculture industry--such as expanding processing capacity, transition assistance, technical assistance, food safety, and establishing industrial hemp as an approved animal feed—through the Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence.
  • Incentivizing Access to Meat Processing Inspections to encourage small or new producers by reimbursing federal meat inspection costs and subsidizing the first-time purchase of equipment needed for federal compliance.
  • Expanding the allowable width for the use of implements of husbandry on roads from 16 feet to 18 feet.
  • Improving agriculture infrastructure in urban areas, the aggregation of product, sharing of resources, and support for community development efforts.
  • Ensuring a quick response to agricultural disasters – including utilizing animal or plant health officials to contain an outbreak; or providing an immediate response to a foodborne illness ​– through the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account.
  • Increasing knowledge and awareness of agricultural issues within the commonwealth through the Agriculture and Youth Organization Grant Program; and providing exposure to child nutrition and agriculture through the Farm to School Grant Program.
  • Making Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state by further enhancing the growth of the organic industry.
  • Supporting the PA Preferred program and to bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program.
  • Creating the state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority horticultural crops like hemp, hops, and hardwoods.

 

For more information about the PA Farm Bill and Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, visit the Department of Agriculture website.

MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Powers - 717.783.2628

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