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 Senate-passed Farm Bill for Pennsylvania’s specialty crops, dairy farmers, conservation and nutrition assistance programs, such as:

  • Dairy: Senator Casey supported improvements to the Farm Bill in order to have the best dairy program possible for Pennsylvania farmers. The 2018 Senate-passed Farm Bill expands Dairy Risk Coverage to the $9/cwt margin level and further discounts premiums. 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) and Specialty Crops Block Grant program. The Senate 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 worked with Senators Ernst, Grassley and Brown to prioritize water quality improvement practices on working lands and to modify Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental rates so that CRP doesn't outcompete farmers for land access. Also included in the Senate-passed Farm Bill are provisions Senator Casey championed that will improve the effectiveness of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. All of these provisions will help farmers implement conservation practices that will improve water quality and wildlife habitat, and help Pennsylvania meet its water quality goals.
  • Rural Economy: Of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, 48 are rural. The Senate-passed 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 Senate-passed 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 Senate-passed 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.
  • Access to Capital and Support for Young and Beginning Farmers: The 2018 Senate-passed Farm Bill increases farm ownership and operating loan amounts and a Senator Casey-sponsored provision that sets aside 15 percent of Environmental Quality Incentive Program funding for young, beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers.

 

Latest

  • Casey Secures Wins for PA Farmers, Families in 2018 Farm Bill Legislation

    As the text of the 2018 Farm Bill was just unveiled, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, is announcing a number of critical wins for Pennsylvania farmers, families and rural communities. Among other legislative provisions authored or pioneered by Casey, the bill will include measures that address senior nutrition needs, improve conservation efforts across the commonwealth and work to protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Read More


  • Casey Looks to Fight Hunger, Address Food Waste

    In the United States, millions of American struggle with hunger every day, despite the fact that a tremendous amount of food that is produced in this country goes to waste. Food products are often discarded on the farm if they are considered "ugly" produce, if they are overproduced, if market conditions are unfavorable or if an existing contract or retail market is lost. To respond to these issues and feed the most vulnerable, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Farm to Food Bank Act. This legislation is designed to establish food recovery networks in each state to incentivize farmers to donate their product directly to food banks to be distributed to those in need. The bill would assist farmers and ranchers by reimbursing them for the costs to produce, harvest, pack, process, store or transport to foodbanks food that is safe for consumption but does not have access to a retail market or supply chain. Read More


  • Casey, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Protect Rural Economies Through Conservation Reform

    In an effort to enhance support for farmers in improving soil health and water quality, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), alongside his colleagues U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), introduced the bipartisan Give our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act of 2018. This legislation ensures that the government isn't outcompeting farmers by inflating farmland cash rental rates, while directing more resources to targeted, partial field practices that improve water quality, such as riparian buffers and filter strips. The GROW Act directs USDA to enroll 4 million acres in CRP practices that directly benefit water quality over the course of the next farm bill. Read More


  • Casey, Colleagues Push to Save Environmental Research Center, Protect Children’s Health

    A number of organizations and programs are in place at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure safety against pollution and environmentally toxic substances. Those like the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) do a great deal to protect the most vulnerable in particular, especially our children. Unfortunately, the Administration's recently released budget proposes the elimination of NCER. To call out this reckless proposal and highlight the importance of the EPA’s role as a safety and research body, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, alongside his colleagues U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) penned a letter to relevant committee leadership. Read More


  • Casey, Collins Introduce Legislation To Help Strengthen Organic Farming Research

    Organics continue to be one of the fastest growing sectors of American agriculture - providing vital support to farming families and creating jobs in communities across the country. Federal investment in organic agriculture research has not kept pace with this strong industry growth, however, and as a result domestic production of organic products is failing to meet consumer demand. To address this disconnect and help farmers benefit from the growing demand for organics, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced the Organic Agricultural Research Act of 2018. The legislation would reauthorize and incrementally increase funding for USDA's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) to ensure continued investment in organic agricultural research. Read More


  • Sens. Urge President to Prioritize Rural Broadband in Infrastructure Proposal

    As the Administration prepares a broad infrastructure plan while around 23 million Americans living in rural areas across the country still lack access to high-speed broadband, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) joined by their colleagues, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), penned a letter to President Trump to urge him to include funding to support broadband deployment in unserved rural areas across the country. Read More


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