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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 16, 2019 03:44 PM
From: Senator Judy Ward
To: All Senate members
Subject: Investing in Agriculture
Pennsylvania has a rich farming heritage and agriculture contributes over $83 billion to our state’s economy. Given our strong history in agriculture, it’s incumbent upon us to ensure that it remains a major industry in our Commonwealth. We need to encourage future generations of farmers and leaders in agriculture as well as reinvigorate the industry. To help accomplish this, I am proposing two initiatives. Please join me in co-sponsoring these proposals aimed at investing in the agriculture industry to continue its legacy in Pennsylvania for years to come.

Document #1

Introduced as SB660

Description: The first initiative amends Title 3 (Agriculture) by adding a new chapter recreating the Agriculture and Rural Youth Organization Grant (ARYOG) Program. The ARYOG Program was first established by the General Assembly via Act 33 of 1991. The provisions of Act 33 terminated when the funding stream was depleted.
The purpose of the Program is to fund projects which will increase knowledge and awareness of agricultural and rural issues in Pennsylvania. This educational effort is directed toward the youth of this Commonwealth. Grants will be awarded to agricultural and rural youth organizations (i.e., Pennsylvania FFA, 4-H, Ag in the Classroom) that are formed to promote development in the areas of agriculture, rural community leadership, vocational training and peer fellowship. The Program may award grants up to $2,500 and matching grants up to $25,000 for capital projects. The grants may be used to cover costs of special projects, educational programs and seminars, agricultural safety training programs and certain capital projects and equipment purchases. The program shall issue grants as funding is allocated and made available to the department.
The bill also establishes a 15-member Board which shall assist the Agriculture Department in establishing the grant program. The board shall meet annually to recommend to the department the awarding of grants to qualified organizations and establish yearly allocation limits.

Document #2

Introduced as SB661

Description: The second initiative adds a new chapter in Title 3 by establishing the Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The purpose of the Program is to enhance, but not replace, the Federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program by creating an annual state Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for horticultural specialty crops that are not currently eligible for grant payments under the federal program. Funding of a state program will assist the growth, certification of seed and marketing of high priority horticultural specialty crops such as hemp and barley.
Under the bill, State and local organizations, producer associations, academia, community-based organizations, and other specialty crops stakeholders are eligible to apply. The program shall be administered in years in which funds are allocated and made available to the department. Grant funds will be awarded for projects of up to 2 years duration. Examples of projects aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops include, but are not limited to: Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops; improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems; assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chains in developing good agricultural practices; investing in specialty crop research, including organic research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes; enhancing food safety; developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops; pest and disease control; and sustainability.
Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding has indicated that “Specialty crops play an important role in the industry, allowing producers to provide Pennsylvania consumers with the products they want.” The Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, along with the federal program, will help to enhance the markets for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.