Pennsylvania State Capitol, Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania Senate last week approved a package of seven bills aimed at helping farmers. The “Farming First” package was designed to build on legislative efforts to support

Pennsylvania’s farm families and maintain agriculture’s status as the state’s top industry, Senate Republicans said in a press conference May 8.

On May 8, the Senate gave its OK to the following measures:

  • Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, would allow farmers more discretion regarding the construction and subdivision of residences on farmland. Current law allows farmers to create one additional farmstead residence, but it does not allow farmers to relinquish this right or to subdivide an existing residence on their property. Backer said the change would make it easier to pass farmland on to the next generation at a lower cost.
  • Senate Bill 338, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria, was passed on a unanimous vote. It would update Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code to allow the transportation of farm equipment that exceeds the current width allowable by law. Backers said the measure is critical for farm owners because the size of equipment used for specialized commercial services—such as custom harvesting, planting and hauling—has increased as the equipment has become more technologically advanced.

Those two bills complement five other bills in the package that were approved earlier in the week:

  • 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.
  • Exempting milk haulers from weather-related travel bans.
  • Easing restrictions on the use of farmland for farm-related tourism and entertainment activities.
  • Setting common-sense safety standards and removing costly requirements for barn weddings and other social events on farms.