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Redding Talks PA Farm Bill, Conservation at Equipment Dealer
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 03/15/2019

Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding Thursday visited Lancaster County to tour Binkley & Hurst, a regional equipment dealer based in Lancaster, and discuss innovative conservation practices and the role technology plays, the PA Farm Bill, and ways agribusinesses can take advantage of equipment and conservation tax credits.

"Binkley & Hurst is a company that helps Pennsylvania's producers stay on the forefront of agribusiness technology, and that includes providing equipment to support conservation best management practices," said Sec. Redding.

The PA Farm Bill, a package of legislation that provides support for and continued investments in the commonwealth's agriculture industry, was modeled after the governor's six-point plan to cultivate future generations of Pennsylvania's agriculture industry. The legislation will provide for business development and succession planning, create accommodations for a growing animal agriculture sector, remove regulatory burdens, strengthen the ag workforce, protect infrastructure, and make Pennsylvania the nation's leading organic state.

A key component would create the Conservation Excellence Grant Program, funded at $2.5 million, to offer financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement best management practices. It would also provide $500,000 for the Agriculture Linked Investment Program, a low-interest loan program for the implementation of best management practices, and would expand Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) tax credits by $3 million to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.

"We need to do all we can to support agribusinesses by giving them the resources and tools they need to capitalize on opportunities and maximize the return on their investments," added Redding. "The efforts of local businesses like Binkley & Hurst combined with the programs available under the PA Farm Bill will position our farmers and growers for future success while ensuring continued environmental stewardship."

Through the REAP Program, farmers, landowner, and businesses earn tax credits for implementing best management practices that will enhance farm production and protect natural resources. Eligible applicants receive between 50 percent and 75 percent of project costs in the form of state tax credits for up to $150,000 per agricultural operation. The tax credits can be used incrementally (as needed) for up to 15 years to pay PA state income tax. Farmers and landowners can elect to sell the tax credits after one year.

Other highlights of the legislation include:

- Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center, funded at $2 million, to serve as a resource to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan, or succession plan to ensure the best chance of success. Realty Transfer Tax Exemption for any transfer of preserved farmland to a new or beginning farmer.

- Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program, funded at $5 million, to fund research and development, organic transition assistance, value-added processing, and marketing grants in support of Pennsylvania's dairy industry. Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence, funded at $1 million, to address issues within the animal agriculture industry, such as expanding processing capacity, transition assistance, technical assistance, food safety, and establishing industrial hemp as an approved animal feed.

- Incentivizing Access to Meat Processing Inspections, funded at $500,000, to encourage small or new producers by reimbursing federal meat inspection costs and subsidizing the first-time purchase of equipment needed for federal compliance.

- Expanding the allowable width for the use of implements of husbandry on roads from 16 feet to 18 feet.

- Agriculture and Rural Youth Organization Grant Program, funded at $500,000, to fund agricultural and rural youth organizations to help increase knowledge and awareness of agricultural issues within the commonwealth.

- Farm to School Grant Program, funded at $500,000, to improve childhood nutrition while increasing exposure to agriculture.

- Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account, funded at $5 million, to allow for a quick response to agricultural disasters, including utilizing animal or plant health officials to contain an outbreak; or providing an immediate response to a foodborne illness.

- PA Preferred Organic Initiative, funded at $1.6 million, to make Pennsylvania the nation's leading organic state by further enhancing the growth of the organic industry.

- PA Preferred Program, funded at an additional $1 million, to support the overall PA Preferred program and to bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program.

- State-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, funded at $500,000, to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority horticultural crops like hemp, hops, and hardwoods.

- Urban Agriculture Grants, funded at $500,000, to improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas, the aggregation of product, sharing of resources, and support for community development efforts.

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