KERSEY — Elk County Farm Bureau Legislative Farm Tour attendees learned about several “issues for action,” including the decline in Pennsylvania dairy farms and Sunday hunting restrictions, during Friday’s event.
ECFB Governmental Relation Director Ernest Mattiuz gathered tour goers outside Chicken Hill Distillery for lessons in farm legislation, ones the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is following closely in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C.
To begin with, the PFB is working with lawmakers on two separate pieces of legislation that would provide relief for farmers operating agritourism enterprises. “Civil Liability Reform,” or House Bill 1348, would “set a higher bar for a plaintiff to collect damages from injury that occurred while participating in an on-farm agritourism activity. Relief from Requirements for Indoor Sprinkler Systems, U.S. Senate Bill 453 and House Bill 1037, which concerns exempting barns and farm buildings from having to install sprinkler systems when hosting an event.
The second “heavy” topic, Mattiuz said, is Sunday hunting. The PFB is not satisfied with U.S. Senate Bill 147 in its current form, Mattiuz said. The requirement for “hunters to obtain written permission from the landowner in order to lawfully hunt on private property on Sunday” is missing from the bill.
Municipalities in several counties have “imposed harsh and costly stormwater management fees on farmers, the PFB says. The PFB supports Senate Bill 679, which would establish a stream-cleaning program for counties.
High-speed broadband service to rural areas was another topic of discussion.
Christine Perneski of the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission told attendees this is an issue on which her agency is currently working.
Dairy was the concluding topic Friday. It generates $14.7 billion in annual revenue, 52,000 jobs and plays an important role in diets, according to the PFB.
Dairy farms are struggling, Mattiuz said, with at least 30 Pennsylvania farms going out of business this year.
“Seven percent of dairy farms ceased operations in 2018, while in Pennsylvania, we lost about six percent of our dairy farms, which amounts to 370 farms,” according to the PFB.
The new USMCA agreement, which will provide increased access for dairy products to Canada, can provide benefits to dairy farmers. If passed, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019, School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019, Dairy Pride Act and Milk in Lunches for Kids laws all address issues faced by the dairy industry.
Other topics that were a part of the conversation included the NAFTA economic and trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, state royalty laws, agricultural labor reform, chronic wasting disease in deer, the use of ATVs on farmland and others.
For more information on these issues, visit www.pfb.com.