The Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg was the backdrop that state Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-47th, selected to receive an update on how the state farm bill is being implemented.
Signed into law in July, the bill allocated $24 million for investment in expanding agricultural business opportunities, assisting farmers and helping people get started in the industry.
An update on how programs funded by the bill are being carried out came during a hearing held Tuesday by the Senate Majority Policy Committee at Vogel's request. Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding was among those who testified, Vogel said.
“I just wanted an update from the secretary and other stakeholders about how things are going so far,” Vogel said in a telephone interview after the hearing. “Implementation — are there any problems that need addressed going forward? Just an informational hearing to get some feedback. It was very positive.”
“The secretary said all programs are going smoothly. They have more applications than they have money for,” Vogel said.
The bill allocates money for existing farmers and people who want to start a business in the agriculture industry.
Money is available for farmers wishing to update packing or processing facilities and entrepreneurs needing “a little seed money” to enter the industry, Vogel said.
“It's working out very well from what the secretary and some others said at the hearing today,” Vogel said.
Another topic that came up was a bill Vogel introduced as the Farming Legacy Bill, which was signed into law as Act 65 of 2019. The bill provides tax credits to farmers who sell or lease their farms to startup farmers.
Vogel said representatives from the main agricultural lenders in the state — AgChoice Farm Credit, which is based in Butler County, and MidAtlantic Farm Credit — reported they have been contacted by people interested in the program.
Members of the Butler County Farm Bureau support the farm bill, said William Thiele, who along with his brother, Jim Thiele, serves as a government relations director for the bureau.
“Overall, we're for it. It shows the government is trying to help us because the commodity market has been down for years and years. The last good year was 2014.” Thiele said.
He said he especially likes a provision in the bill that provides tax breaks to help young farmers start up a farm or an agricultural production business.
Also at the state farm show Wednesday, Reddin announced the opening of the last grant program in the 2019 PA Farm Bill. The $1 million Farm Vitality Grant Program is targeted toward Pennsylvania's family-run farms.
“We need PA farm families to have sound business plans, because their success is Pennsylvania's success,” he said. “Those with us today have the opportunity to make a difference in their communities and awaken the entrepreneurial spirit of farmers.
“The Pennsylvania Farm Bill is both a strategic investment in the industry and a resource for local government.”