From staff reports
To help ensure that agriculture remains one of Pennsylvania’s top industries, State Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) gave her support this week to a bipartisan legislative package that seeks to boost farming now and for years to come.
“Pennsylvania farmers feed the world,” Oberlander said. “But they need our help. Between our dairy farmers feeling the effects of lower milk consumption and the unpredictability of Mother Nature, the industry can use whatever help we can offer. That’s why this legislation is so important because it addresses various challenges facing farmers and offers solutions.”
Among the bills in the package are those to:
- Allocate funding to facilitate a quick response to agriculture disasters.
- Protect agritourism businesses from frivolous lawsuits.
- Provide grants to improve childhood nutrition while increasing exposure to agriculture for children.
- Help farmers and landowners implement conservation best management practices.
- Offer grants to fund youth organizations that promote development in agriculture, community leadership, vocational training and peer fellowship.
- Invest in and encourage farming of high-priority crops like hemp, hops and hardwoods that are not eligible for the federal grants.
- Reimburse federal meat inspection costs for small or new processors.
- Allow the Department of Agriculture to serve as a resource to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan or succession plan.
- Re-establish a low-interest loan program administered by the State Conservation Commission in conjunction with lending institutions to implement agricultural and conservation best management practices.
“By offering additional milk options in our schools, we can help ensure that children are receiving important nutrition,” Oberlander said. “One of the myths about milk is that it’s high in fat. That’s just the opposite. Even whole milk is 97% fat free.”
Also as part of June as Dairy Month, the House Majority Policy Committee, which Oberlander chairs, held a roundtable discussion last week with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to talk about the agency’s array of programs to help farmers and agriculture producers.
Among those programs, detailed at www.USDA.gov, are the Dairy Margin Coverage Program, which opened this week and offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer, and the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. That initiative helps units of federal, state and local governments protect and restore watersheds up to 250,000 acres.
“Working together at both levels of government and combining our efforts, we can make a real difference in agriculture,” Oberlander added. “I am hopeful that this bill package, combined with our work to promote the dairy industry and raise the awareness of worthwhile federal programs, we can help safeguard the viability of the ag industry for generations to come.”