Members of the state General Assembly this week adopted and sent to the governor a package of bills previously dubbed “Farming First,” an effort to come to the aid of farmers caught in a whirlwind of difficult economic circumstances.
We encourage the governor to quickly push these measure through.
Approximately 59,000 families manage more than 7.7 million acres of Pennsylvania farmland, generating about $7.5 billion in cash receipts each year, but as local farmers noted this past week, it is an industry in crisis.
During a meeting Thursday in Union County, Brenda Cochran, a dairy farmer from Tioga County, noted that dairy farmers here and across the nation are struggling and being driven out of business by a federal pricing formula that does not take into account the cost of manufacturing, including the feed and care for cows.
“Our problems as dairy farmers are a microcosm of everything that is wrong with U.S. agricultural policy,” she said. “We could bring poultry farmers in here and they would say the same thing. We cannot keep this up. This is our last stand. And ultimately the policies that come out of Washington are global food policies promoted by both political parties.”
Some of those factors make the policies that just came out of the state Legislature in Harrisburg and forwarded to the governor’s desk even more essential.
Among the bills are provisions that would provide a personal income tax credit for landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers. The one-time credit, modeled after a successful program in Minnesota, provides an incentive for landowners to work with beginning farmers to ensure that farmland remains in productive use.
Another bill calls for the creation of a Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission to review the status of the dairy industry and make recommendations to support the industry’s future in the commonwealth.
Another simply eliminates a concern for farmers who must drive farming equipment on roads in order to reach their fields.
“Over the years, farm machinery has grown in size and has become more technologically advanced,” state Sen. Wayne Langerhoic, Jr., R-35 of Bedford, Cambria and Clearfield counties wrote in a memo attached to his bill. “Specialized commercial services, such as custom harvesting, planting and hauling are becoming a critical component of Pennsylvania’s agricultural operations.” The bill expands the allowable width of farm equipment on roadways from 16 to 18 feet.
In February, Gov. Tom Wolf called on lawmakers to act on a variety of bills to help the farming industry, and he is expected to sign those approved this past week.
Meanwhile, several other measures have been introduced and should be considered with the same levels of priority and urgency to keep help coming for struggling farmers here in Pennsylvania.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.