Policy Development Background Material

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Confronting the Issues

Agriculture Ecosystem Credit Markets and Farmers
U.S. farmers are at the forefront of climate-smart farming, and utilizing scientific solutions, technology and innovation to work to protect our land, air and water. U.S. agriculture contributes only 10 percent of overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Today’s farmers do less, with more – in fact, farmers would have needed 100 million more acres 30 years ago to match today’s production levels. Agriculture can also play a role in offsetting emissions beyond the farm, and there is much potential opportunities for agriculture ecosystem credit markets as a value-added income stream for farmers. This paper explores credit markets, and some of the complexities the industry must address.

Boundary and Fencing Laws
Some say, “good fences make good neighbors.” While privacy concerns often drive considerations in enacting fences in residential and urban areas, rural landowners are often motivated by issues related to livestock. In Pennsylvania, such issues are generally governed by the state’s Fence Law, which addresses legal duties to erect and maintain fences for farms and ranches. Relatedly, Pennsylvania’s law on trespassing livestock provides procedures regarding costs for damage to property, interim care, and returning of such animals.

Commercial Solar Energy Consideration for Farmland
As utility (large-scale) commercial solar projects become more prevalent in Pennsylvania, increased focus is being given to long-term policy decisions such as what types of land are best suitable for these projects, whether and how to incentivize development on such lands, and landowner protections during the entire project lifespan.

Consolidation in the Dairy Industry
The dairy industry has changed significantly over time. One of the major changes has been consolidation throughout the entire industry including dairy farms, processors and retailers, along with dairy cooperatives. Consolidation in the dairy industry far exceeds the pace of consolidation in most of U.S. agriculture sectors. This paper explores consolidation among dairy farms and cooperatives.

Creating Local Demand for Niche Markets
In recent years, farmers have been searching for ways to increase local demand for niche agricultural products. Niche markets are a subset of a market that has its own unique characteristics or differentiated preferences. In agriculture, this can include specialty crops, organic products, goods that comply with dietary restrictions or foods that are unique to certain cultures and groups. Many niche markets have the potential to bring in a substantial profit, however sellers must be aware of consumer preferences and adapt to suit their needs.

Deer in the Headlights: Increasing CWD Prevalence in Pennsylvania
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an always fatal neurological disease that affects members of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose, and reindeer/caribou). Like mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans, it’s caused not by a virus or bacteria, but by abnormal prions, or proteins. To reduce CWD prevalence, the response plan states that “the best management strategy” is to “reduce deer abundance in infected areas.” The methods put forth in the plan include a reliance on increased hunter harvest through increased antlerless tag allocation, concurrent seasons, and removing antler point restrictions within the areas with high CWD prevalence. What other solutions should be considered to control the spread of CWD?

How Can Pennsylvania Reinvest in Rural Communities?
Pennsylvania is one of the largest rural states in the country. Despite having two major metropolitan areas in our state, Pennsylvania is rural at heart. Across the country, rural communities are struggling to retain residents, attract investment, upgrade infrastructure and capitalize on its positive attributes. Pennsylvania is not exempt from that struggle. On average, it takes rural communities longer to bounce back from economic downturns; and they often struggle with the ability to bring in new businesses and enterprises to their communities. Yet, rural communities have many attributes to offer as we create a modern, connected, economy. In areas with reliable broadband service, remote workers can enjoy a cheaper cost of living. Individuals and families that want to be close to outdoor recreation are often drawn to rural communities. Several states have launched initiatives to attract new investments in rural communities. What steps, if any, should Pennsylvania take to bolster rural communities?

How Can We Improve Our Supply Chain in The Wake of COVID-19?
COVID-19 gave farmers and consumers alike a crash course in the fragility of our food supply chain. Whether it was panic buying, or plant shut downs due to outbreaks, both sides of the supply chain were hurt by those circumstances. Perhaps the most significant was farmers having to dump dairy products or euthanize animals due to problems at the processing level. Equally problematic was the inability of food production facilities to quickly pivot to moving extra products to our charitable food system. Even without the threat of a global pandemic, there are other forces that could cause significant disruptions in our food supply chain. Recently, two separate cyber-attacks shut down a fuel pipeline and the nation’s largest meat processing facility. A strong supply chain is often the one with fewer links in the chain. Farmers and businesses that sold directly to the public, such as smaller meat processing facilities, saw robust growth in sales. Pennsylvania, given its diversity in agriculture and proximity to market, can likely capitalize in this growing interest in local foods fueled by the pandemic. Should Pennsylvania take steps to strengthen and diversify its food supply chain?

How to Fund Agriculture Conservation Practices?
Pennsylvania farmers have an excellent conservation story to tell. More than half of all crop acres planted in Pennsylvania is done by no-till or minimal tillage practices. Cover crops are widely used as a crop rotation strategy to help keep soil in place. Despite those advances, there are still gains that need to be made in terms of local water quality. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is calling on Pennsylvania to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus coming from agriculture sources. While farmers may have a desire to make additional conservation improvements on their farms, paying for those practices can be problematic, given the current state of the farm economy. If we want to help farmers adopt conservation practices on their farms, what is the best way for state government to fund such a program?

One Health
The Pennsylvania One Health Task Force was established in 2018 as a subcommittee under the Animal Health Commission of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The task force is an interdisciplinary group of federal, state, and academic stakeholders with a stated goal of working together to achieve positive outcomes for human, animal, plant, and ecosystem health in Pennsylvania. Currently, the Task Force’s authority is limited in that it is only able to make recommendations to the state that have no binding action. But recently there has been some discussion into whether the Task Force would be more effective if it were reorganized. The ultimate goal of re-organization is to give the Task Force more authority and/or the ability to advocate for recommendations on the health of animals, humans and the environment through recommendations made by the members. Should PFB support the One Health Task Force having more authority in implementing its recommendations, or having the ability to advocate for policy?

Standards of Waiver of MS4 Requirements – Are They Fair and Should They Be Changed?
Numerous municipalities within more densely populated areas of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed are potentially subject to extensive requirements under the federal Municipal Separate Storm and Sewer System (MS4) regulations for pollution reduction and control of water channeled in their storm sewer systems. But some municipalities initially designated as part of Pennsylvania’s MS4 makeup have been granted waivers from these requirements under the federal waiver provisions. MS4 municipalities in the Bay Watershed initially had to obtain either a permit or a waiver by 2017. And any permit or waiver issued only remains in effect for 5 years. Municipalities that have been granted a waiver will have to obtain approval for renewal of their waiver by 2022. What should be the governing policy or criteria for the upcoming round for MS4 permit waivers in 2022?

Urban Communities and Food Security
In 2019, more than 10 percent of all US households were food insecure at some point during the year. In 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that number is expected to be around 12.7 percent. Lack of urban food access is due to a few reasons including food availability, limited access to grocery stores, and high prices in areas with increased poverty rates. What can farmers do to aid urban communities with food access?