Cassie Miller, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 27, 2023
From newly signed state laws to a booming organic sector, Pennsylvania’s $132.5 billion agricultural industry made the headlines several times in 2023, mostly for positive reasons.
However, Agriculture in the Commonwealth has not been immune to national challenges, such as avian flu, foreign ownership of farmland, and a still unfinished Farm Bill going into 2024.
In mid-November, President Joe Biden signed a stopgap funding bill to keep the U.S. government open, which included a one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill that expired on Sept. 30, 2023.
The national farm bill must be renewed every-five years. Without renewal, nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), support services for farmers, and conservation initiatives could all lose critical funding, affecting million of people across the country and in Pennsylvania.
Here are the top five agricultural stories from 2023, compiled by the Capital-Star team:
- Buying the farm: Pa. lawmakers concerned about foreign ownership of agricultural land, October: At a Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. in late September, U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) expressed concerns over foreign ownership of farms and agricultural land across the country, particularly in Pennsylvania. Stakeholders in the Commonwealth say that state law currently protects farms and farmland, but told the Capital-Star that foreign ownership of U.S.-based farms can reverberate, affecting partnerships, land acquisition, and national security.
- Looking to harness ‘great potential,’ Pa. banks on the future of organic agriculture, July: Pennsylvania has seen a boom in the organic farming and agriculture sector over the last decade. Now, with its prospects growing, the Shapiro administration has outlined efforts, budgetary and supportive, to bolster this fast-growing agricultural space.
- ‘Overburdened and underfunded’: Shapiro signs bill to save Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, October: After years of advocacy efforts from activists, state officials, and lawmakers, a bill to increase dog license fees for the first time in more than two decades was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Josh Shapiro. The law, sponsored by state Sen. Elder Vogel, increases funding for the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, which has struggled to financially support itself citing increased operating costs, growing demand for services, and inflation.
- Shapiro signs bill to make Pa. Preferred Organic label permanent, November: A bill to make Pennsylvania’s “Pa. Preferred Organic” label permanent was signed into law in late 2023. With increased interest and demand for organic produce, the bill’s sponsors said making the label permanent was a way to help Pennsylvania producers market their products.
- Pa. cleared to resume normal poultry trade following HI-PATH outbreak, August: High Pathogenic Avian Influenza decimated poultry farms across the Commonwealth for more than a year beginning in April 2022. After more than a year of combatting the virus, The World Animal Health Organization cleared Pennsylvania in August to restart international poultry trade.
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