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Celebrating Protectors and Providers on Veteran-Run Farms
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 04/18/2019

Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding Wednesday toured two farms run by veterans, discussing the investments being made under the PA Farm Bill. Redding joined the PA Veteran Farming Project at Black Valley Farm, a VA-approved mentor farm for veterans with VA educational benefits, and Pleasant Lane Farm, owned by the Frye family, whose members have served in the Marines and Army National Guard. The Fryes were recently awarded grant funding through the Dairy Investment Program grant program.

"Eight percent of Pennsylvania farmers are veterans, which means that 8 percent of Pennsylvanians have been giving back to their communities in one way or another for their entire adult lives," said Sec. Redding. "Either by protecting us or providing for us, these veteran farmers have committed themselves to our land and its people. It's time for us to give back."

The PA Farm Bill--a comprehensive legislative package addressing the needs of Pennsylvania's farmers and agribusiness community--would support these operations by investing $1 million in PA Preferred and, by extension, the Homegrown By Heroes program.

Launched in 2015, the Homegrown By Heroes program currently includes 20 members -- veterans who first served our country through their military service and now are helping to feed their communities.

The legislation, which 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. It invests $24 million dollars in agriculture-related issues from rapid response, to education, to business assistance.

"The Pennsylvania Farm Bill will invest in these farms in a number of ways, from succession planning to organic transition, stewardship assistance to expanding infrastructure," Redding added.

Other highlights of the legislation include:

- Creating the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center 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.

- Incentivizing the transfer of preserved farmland to a new or beginning farmer through the Realty Transfer Tax Exemption.

- Creating the Conservation Excellence Grant Program to offer financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement conservation best management practices.

- Expanding the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) tax credits by $3 million to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.

- Developing the Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program to fund research and development, organic transition assistance, value-added processing, and marketing grants in support of Pennsylvania's dairy industry.

- Addressing 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--through the Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence.

- Incentivizing Access to Meat Processing Inspections 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.

- Improving agriculture infrastructure in urban areas, the aggregation of product, sharing of resources, and support for community development efforts.

- Ensuring 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--through the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account.

- Increasing knowledge and awareness of agricultural issues within the commonwealth through the Agriculture and Youth Organization Grant Program; and providing exposure to child nutrition and agriculture through the Farm to School Grant Program.

- Making Pennsylvania the nation's leading organic state by further enhancing the growth of the organic industry.

- Supporting the PA Preferred program and to bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program.

- Creating the state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority horticultural crops like hemp, hops, and hardwoods.

The PA Veteran Farming Project connects honorably discharged veterans, Guard, and Reserve members with agriculture resources, connecting employers and mentor farmers with veterans in southwestern Pennsylvania.

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