Written by: M. Sean High—Staff Attorney
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to agriculture:
Farmland Preservation: PA Governor Approves Agricultural Conservation Easement Legislation
On July 1, 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf approved legislation amending the Commonwealth’s Agricultural Area Security Law (AASL) to allow landowners to voluntarily surrender the right to construct an additional residence on land subject to a conservation easement (). Previously, AASL stated that a conservation easement “shall not prevent…[c]onstruction and use of structures on the subject land for the landowner's principal residence or for the purpose of providing necessary housing for seasonal or full-time employees: Provided, That only one such structure may be constructed on no more than two acres of the subject land during the term of the agricultural conservation easement.” ( ). Under the new legislation, now known as Act 33, owners of the land subject to an agricultural conservation easement may now voluntarily “relinquish and extinguish” this right to construct an additional residence. According to the of the legislation—Rep. Kate A. Klunk—this will allow landowners who do not wish to construct an additional residence the ability to reduce the value of their property for tax purposes. Additionally, if a landowner does not relinquish the right to construct an additional residence, Act 33 now permits the construction to be used for an immediate family member as well as for the landowner or an employee.
Taxation: PA Governor Approves Tax Credit to Support Beginning Farmers
On July 2, 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf approved legislation providing a tax credit for those who sell or rent their “agricultural assets” to beginning farmers (). Now known as Act 65, the legislation defines an “agricultural asset” as “agricultural land, livestock, facilities, buildings and machinery used for farming.” Qualifying agriculture asset owners include individuals, trusts, or pass-through entities. Equipment and cattle dealers, however, do not qualify. Under Act 65, qualifying owners of agricultural assets that rent or sell those assets to beginning farmers may apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for a tax credit against the tax due for the rental or sale of the asset. For a sale of an agricultural asset, qualifying owners may receive a tax credit that is equal to 5% of the sale price or fair market value of the agricultural asset. The tax credit, however, may not exceed $32,000. For the lease of an agricultural asset, qualifying owners may receive a tax credit that is equal to 10% of the gross rent for the first, second, and third years of the lease. The tax credit, however, may not exceed $7,000 per year.
Dairy Policy: PA Governor Approves Dairy Future Commission
On July 2, 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf approved legislation establishing the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission (). Now known as Act 66, the legislation creates a 22-member commission—consisting of representatives from both public and private sectors—charged with providing “recommendations to promote and strengthen the Commonwealth’s dairy industry.” The purpose of the commission is to evaluate various factors affecting the dairy industry such as production, marketing, and regulations. The commission will also have the ability to make recommendations regarding any legislative and/or regulatory changes that could benefit Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.
Transportation: PA Governor Vetoes Travel Ban Exemption for Milk Haulers
On July 2, 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoed legislation that would have permitted milk haulers the ability to travel on Pennsylvania highways during a declaration of disaster emergency (). Under current law, Pennsylvania’s governor has the authority to place travel restrictions on commercial vehicles during inclement weather. According to the of the proposed legislation—Rep. Martin T. Causer—these restrictions do not consider the perishable nature of milk and that cows continue to produce milk while the travel restrictions are in place. Rep. Causer’s proposed legislation provided that during a declaration of disaster emergency, a licensed milk hauler would have been permitted to travel to a dairy farm to pick-up milk and to transport milk to or from a milk plant. In vetoing the legislation, Governor Wolf stated that “[p]roviding for an exemption to the travel ban under the declaration puts the public in jeopardy, which, in turn, endangers our State Police and first responders and even our milk haulers.”
Food Labeling: Canada Proposes New Food Labeling Regulations
On July 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FSA) that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued proposed changes to the nation’s food labeling regulations. FSA stated that the proposed labeling changes include how the terms “expiration date” and “best before date” may be used, a required listing of a manufacturer’s contact information, and a consistent location regarding a product’s country of origin declaration. Interested stakeholders have until September 4, 2019, to submit comments to CFIA regarding the proposed changes.
From National Ag Law Experts:
, Stewart D. Fried, Ag/FDA Blog – Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (June 25, 2019)
, Sarah Everhart, Maryland Risk Management Education Blog (June 18, 2019)
Federal Actions and Notices:
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Farm Service Agency
Federal Crop Insurance Corporation
Food and Nutrition Service
: Legislation to amend the Commonwealth’s dog law regarding dangerous dogs (Referred to Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, July 9, 2019)
: Legislation to amend the Commonwealth’s fireworks law (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, July 8, 2019)
: Legislation to permit therapy dogs on public transportation (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, July 8, 2019)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:
Penn State Research:
– Penn State News
– Brownfield Ag News
– Food Navigator
– Morning AgClips