Policy Development Background Material

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Confronting the Issues

Chemical and Fertilizer Costs: Current Prospects and Potential Solutions

The United States economy is currently experiencing the worst inflation in over 40 years. This has led to substantial increases in production costs in virtually every industry, and agriculture is not immune. Input costs for agricultural fertilizer and the raw materials needed to produce it have risen dramatically since the beginning of 2022, and with them the prices of agricultural commodities that rely on it. To read more Click Here.


Consolidation in the Ag Industry

Since 1920, the number of farms in the United States have steadily decreased from a peak of 6.5 million in 1920, to slightly more than 2 million today. While the number of farms has fallen, the size of farms has tripled, with the average farm size in America reaching 445 acres in 2021. This consolidation is often attributed to several factors: capital-intensive agriculture (more machinery and less people), the emergence of technology that has allowed farmers to operate more land and a larger number of animals, and the effects of competition between smaller and larger farms. To read more Click Here.


Deer Management Options in the Time of CWD

With CWD prevalence rising in cervid populations in Pennsylvania, and hunter numbers decreasing, dealing with deer damage and controlling herd population is a critical concern. Regulated hunting, deer depredation permits and other programs like “Red Tag” are effective tools, and more can be done. Alternative methods for deer population control have been tried and studied, to varying outcomes. To read more Click Here.


Environmental Impact of Animal Waste

Across Pennsylvania, there are approximately 825 Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs) that contribute large amounts of animal waste per year. Farms that host their operations close to bodies of water tend to provide copious amounts of nutrient runoff into local tributaries, which, in turn, can lead to harmful dead zones in watersheds, like the Chesapeake Bay. If regulations are not upheld, the environmental impact from nutrient pollution could disrupt aquatic ecosystems, decrease air quality, and contaminate groundwater sources. To read more Click Here


Health Effects of Alternative Meats

The alternative meat industry poses a competitive threat to beef, poultry, and pork farmers. There are many different topics to examine within the alternative meat industry, but this research focuses on the health side effects of synthetic food proteins. Consumers need to be aware of the ingredients within alternative meats because it has potential harm to their body in the long-term. The ultimate issue being examined is whether the negative health side effects outweigh the positives in the alternative meat industry. To read more Click Here.


Hemp Manufacturing, Contract Services and Regulations in Pennsylvania

Over the past several years, Pennsylvania state government has undertaken a number of initiatives designed to create and support a market for industrial hemp and the food, fiber, and other extracts that can be derived from it. According to estimates by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), most hemp permit holders in the state are growing for CBD (cannabidiol), accounting for 80%-90% of the crop, while the rest are growing for fiber or producing a dual-purpose crop. To read more Click Here.


How to Increase the Number of Local Butcher Shops

Supply chain shortages caused by COVID-19 changed food distribution in the United States (U.S.) majorly, particularly the meat processing industry. The meat processing industry is dominated by a few large companies. To break it down into the different markets, four companies control 85 percent of beef, the top four companies in poultry control 54 percent, and the top four companies in pork control 70 percent. The concern with large processors dominating the market is it is at the expense of farmers and consumers. Consumers began panic buying protein from grocery stores when COVID-19 hit, which led to empty meat cases. As a result, local butcher shops saw an increase in demand from customers that wanted to buy their meat directly from farmers to have a back stock in the freezer. The surge of demand led to butchers not being able to take new business for a long period. To read more Click Here.


Maine’s Right to Food Constitutional Amendment

Last year, Maine became the first state to pass a constitutional amendment declaring a “right to food.” While the specific extent of the amendment’s effects will ultimately take time to be implemented and decided upon by courts, state agencies, legislators, and local officials, the amendment has brought an increased focus on the role of food security. To read more Click Here.


Mental Wellness in the Agriculture Community

Agriculture communities already face many unique challenges daily, and with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years, mental health has become a steady decline. Due to majority of the farming communities belonging in rural areas, it is difficult for individuals to seek help with improving their physical and mental wellness. It is important to identify the stressors that individuals face daily, and how resources are not so readily available to the agriculture community. To read more Click Here.


Pennsylvania Dairy Without the Over-Order Premium

Recent actions by those in the dairy industry, including a policy change by PFB, have led to increased calls for the elimination of the Over-Order Premium (OOP). While there are legitimate policy arguments for and against the premium, understanding the effects of removing the premium, and what, if anything, would replace it, are vital to making an informed decision about the premium’s future. To read more Click Here.


Pennsylvania Fuel Tax and Possible Alternatives

With the highest state gasoline tax in the nation at $0576 per gallon, Pennsylvania has always been subject to criticism for the rate at which diesel and gasoline are taxed in the state. With aging, failing infrastructure these taxes are intended to provide funding for our commonwealth’s roads and bridges, but state residents have felt underserved as they travel throughout the state. As gas prices have reached record highs with no end in sight, the state’s gas tax has been brought front and center once again. To read more Click Here.


Stormwater Fees in Pennsylvania

In recent years, stormwater management has become a growing financial burden for many communities across Pennsylvania. To pay for the related increasing costs, as of March 2021, at least 27 municipalities have implemented user fees for stormwater management services and a growing number are considering them. These charges are called stormwater fees or stormwater utility fees because they are modeled after the way municipalities have historically billed residents for other utility services like water and sewer. Stormwater fees provide local governments with a stable source of revenue to pay for their growing stormwater management costs, but at the same time have generated controversy in many Pennsylvania communities. To read more Click Here.


Voting System Integrity

A person should have trust that their vote on election day is not manipulated in anyway because the foundation of a strong democracy relies upon this principle. Recent legal changes to the voting system have caused security concerns from voters, and disagreements on the changes were amplified by the highly controversial 2020 presidential election. In Pennsylvania (PA), the main dispute was over the implementation of Act 77. The voting system integrity debates primarily concern how a ballot is physically cast, fraudulent voting, and election funding. To read more Click Here.