Agriculture

Agriculture

Pennsylvania’s proud agricultural tradition has helped build and strengthen the Commonwealth from its earliest days. As Pennsylvania’s number one industry, agriculture continues to drive our economy, supporting over 94,000 farmers and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Senator Casey is committed to helping PA famers so they can support their families, grow their businesses and create jobs. As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Senator Casey fights for Pennsylvania’s hard-working farmers.

Roughly every five years, Congress reauthorizes a package of legislation, collectively called “the Farm Bill,” which governs federal farm and food policy. A strong and fair Farm Bill is crucial to the success of Pennsylvania’s farming families. As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, which is responsible for formulating the farm bill, Senator Casey has had the opportunity to shape the legislation so that it serves the people of Pennsylvania and supports the farmers of the Commonwealth.

Throughout his tenure, Senator Casey has fought for a number of agriculture priorities:

  • Dairy: Pennsylvania's more than 6,500 dairy farms help support and drive rural economies throughout the state. The 2014 Farm Bill reformed the dairy program and created a new, insurance-like Margin Protection Program. When the Margin Protection Program did not function as anticipated, Senator Casey worked with his colleagues to make reforms to the program in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. That Act authorized the development of new insurance options for dairy farmers, something that Senator Casey had urged USDA to allow. It also made it more affordable for smaller farmers to purchase coverage through the program. For years, Senator Casey has also spearheaded a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, urging strong support for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Through TEFAP, USDA supports dairy and other commodity prices by taking excess commodities off the market and distributing them to the less fortunate through food banks.

  • Strengthening the Farm Safety Net: Farmers deserve a strong safety net to help protect them against natural disasters and other situations that are beyond their control. Senator Casey supports strong and effective crop insurance and commodity support programs for farmers. He also worked to get new microloan provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill to assist small and beginning farmers seeking to expand and improve their farm operations.

  • Conservation and Chesapeake Bay: Senator Casey has long worked to provide resources for farmers so they can implement conservation practices on their operations. He successfully amended the 2014 Farm Bill to ensure that nutrient management activities are covered by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. He recently organized a bipartisan PA Delegation letter to USDA that called on the Department to invest more funding into the Chesapeake Bay Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program agreement. This program helps Pennsylvania agriculture meet the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Agreement.

  • Specialty Crops, Local Foods and Organics: Pennsylvania agriculture is diverse and the Commonwealth is home to many different kinds of specialty crop producers. Senator Casey has advocated for several programs that help these farmers access new markets, such as the Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program and the Specialty Crop Block Grants Program. Senator Casey fought for an amendment to the 2014 Farm Bill to help organic producers access crop insurance, and he has consistently advocated for PA specialty crop growers faced with pests and invasive species. In 2017, he called on USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to provide increased resources for Pennsylvania's Spotted Lanternfly efforts. Secretary Perdue announced increase funding in early 2018.

Senator Casey Senator Casey worked in a bipartisan fashion to secure many legislative victories in the 2018 Farm Bill for Pennsylvania’s specialty crops, dairy farmers, conservation and nutrition assistance programs, including:

  • Dairy: Senator Casey supported significant improvements to the dairy program in the Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill replaces the Margin Protection Program with Dairy Margin Coverage, and expands coverage to the $9.50/cwt margin level and further discounts premiums, making the program more affordable and effective. Dairy Margin Coverage also allows producers to cover between 5 and 95 percent of their historical production, up from between 25 and 95 percent. This change allows small and medium-sized dairies, which are common in Pennsylvania, to cover more of their production. These changes build on the modifications made to the Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) that Senator Casey fought to get included in the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act. That legislation invested over $1 billion into MPP, changed the margin calculation from bi-monthly to monthly, increased the Tier 1 coverage level to 5 million pounds and substantially lowered tier 1 premiums.

  • Specialty Crops: This Farm Bill continues to make important investments in programs that benefit Pennsylvania's many specialty crop producers, including the Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI), which will receive $800 million in funding over 10 years, and Specialty Crops Block Grant program, which will receive $85 million per year in mandatory funds. The 2018 Farm Bill combines and provides permanent funding for the Value Added Producer Grant Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program and Local Foods Promotion Program. At Senator Casey's urging, the legislation also includes a farm to foodbank program to ensure that surplus agricultural commodities don’t go to waste.

  • Conservation: Senator Casey fought for strong Farm Bill conservation provisions that will help Pennsylvania producers enhance the environment. The final Farm Bill does not include cuts to overall conservation spending. At Senator Casey's urging, the Farm Bill prioritizes on-farm projects and water quality improvements. It also includes incentives for the installation of forested riparian buffers, which are one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing nutrient and sediment runoff.

  • Rural Economy: Of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, 48 are rural. The 2018 Farm Bill continues to invest in rural infrastructure and community development projects. The community facilities direct loan and grants program helps rural communities build hospitals and improve police and fire stations. Rural Business Development Grants help rural entrepreneurs grow their businesses. The 2018 Farm Bill also includes investments in rural water infrastructure and increased broadband deployment so that rural communities have the tools they need to thrive. The Farm Bill's rural development provisions also support a growing bio-based manufacturing sector.

  • Organic: Organic is a rapidly growing sector in Pennsylvania and across the country. Last year, Pennsylvania ranked second in organic sales. Senator Casey's legislation to provide permanent baseline funding for the Organic Agriculture Research Initiative was included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill also includes funding for organic cost-share assistance. This builds on provisions Senator Casey fought for in the 2014 farm bill that allowed organic producers to participate in an organic foods promotion program.

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