Senate Passes “Farming First” Bills to Support PA Agriculture


HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a package of bills today to support Pennsylvania’s farm families, including two bills sponsored by Senator Judy Ward (R-30) designed to ease restrictions on barn weddings and milk transportation.

Senate Bill 453, sponsored by Ward, would allow farmers to apply for an annual exemption to certain costly requirements that are included in the state’s Uniform Construction Code for buildings that host weddings, receptions and similar events. The measure would make it easier for farms to host these events by relaxing requirements for onerous mandates, including sprinkler systems and other features that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to install.

Senate Bill 588, sponsored by Ward and Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), would exempt milk haulers from travel bans imposed during a declaration of disaster emergency. The measure would address the unique needs of the dairy industry during weather-related commercial vehicle travel bans. Travel bans could cause dairy producers to dispose of milk that could not be legally transported.

“Farmers in my local communities have shared serious concerns about onerous government regulations having a negative impact on their businesses,” Ward said. “The goal is to strike a responsible balance between public safety and the needs of our farmers. These two bills will help balance the scales so farmers can run a successful business.”

The bills in the “Farming First” package are focused on helping Pennsylvania agricultural operations remain competitive and profitable for current and future generations of farmers.

Other bills in the package that were approved today include:

  • A tax credit program for landowners to lease or sell farmland to future generations of farmers.
  • The creation of the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission to bring together all stakeholders in the industry.
  • Easing restrictions on the use of farmland for farm-related tourism and entertainment activities.

Other bills in the package include measures to change the state’s farmland preservation program to allow farmers more flexibility for building or subdividing residences, and legislation updating Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code to allow the transportation of large farm equipment.

The “Farming First” package is designed to build on the longstanding efforts of Senate Republicans to support Pennsylvania’s farm families and maintain agriculture’s status as the state’s top industry.

Pennsylvania’s 59,000 farm families manage more than 7.7 million acres of farmland. The agriculture industry generates more than $7.5 billion in cash receipts annually.

Senate Republicans led the fight last year to create the Pennsylvania Dairy Industry Investment Program, which is designed to improve the production, processing and distribution of dairy products throughout the state.

Over the past four years, Senate Republicans have also worked to restore a cumulative total of more than $15 million in cuts proposed by Governor Wolf to critical programs supporting the agriculture community, including livestock and open dairy shows, food marketing and research, hardwoods research and promotion, agricultural research and Agricultural Excellence.

All of the bills in the “Farming First” package were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.


CONTACT:  Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490

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