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.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is encouraging Pennsylvania food distributors, including food hubs, farmers markets and other entities, to apply for the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box initiative. Read More
In light of the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the agriculture industry, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) held a call with Pennsylvania agriculture leaders to discuss solutions, challenges and needs for farmers across the Commonwealth. Read More
Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) led a bipartisan group of Pennsylvania's U.S. Representatives in a letter urging leadership in the Senate and the House of Representatives to address the growing food insecurity crisis in Pennsylvania, and throughout the country, by providing critical investments to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Read More
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced their approval of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's (PDA) request to operate a Disaster Household Distribution program in each of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties, after Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to Secretary Perdue in support of PDA’s request, in coordination with the Wolf Administration. Read More
Recently, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced a bill that would direct the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a process through which it could measure, evaluate and report on conservation program outcomes. Read More
As USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) works to finalize farm bill changes to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has sent a letter to FSA Administer Fordyce calling for key water quality improvements and is releasing the following statement: Read More
U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have written to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging him to use his authority to transfer unspent funds to conservation programs that will help agricultural producers and landowners voluntarily improve their farms and private forests by reducing runoff pollution Read More
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pennsylvania's entire Democratic congressional delegation are pressing Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on the Trump Administration’s proposed revisions to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. Among other harmful impacts, the proposal would jeopardize food security for vulnerable families and have significant economic ramifications in Pennsylvania. Earlier this week Casey also joined Senate Democrats in opposing the proposed rule, noting that it is in direct opposition to the bipartisan agreement in the 2018 Farm Bill, which excluded any changes to broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE). Read More
Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is joined by 13 of his Democratic colleagues in reintroducing the Access to Healthy Foods for Young Children Act of 2019 (S.2501), legislation to improve one of the Nation's most important child nutrition programs: the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Every day, CACFP provides healthy, nutritious meals to more than 3 million of our youngest who are in Head Start, Early Head Start and child care programs in both centers and day care homes. CACFP plays a critical role in educating children and families about healthy nutrition and providing resources for at-risk children to eat healthy meals. The Access to Healthy Foods for Young Children Act makes several improvements to CACFP, helping our most vulnerable children get off to a strong and smart start. Read More
Recently, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a bill to extend nutrition assistance for vulnerable infants, children and mothers across the country. The Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act would address a gap in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) that kicks young children off vital nutrition assistance before they are eligible to start school. The WIC Act would also give states the option to certify infants and postpartum mothers for two years, which would reduce duplicative paperwork and allow program administrators to focus on providing services such as nutrition counseling and breastfeeding support. Read More