Pa. farm businesses get boost from new government funding

To grow farm businesses, the Shapiro Administration stated Tuesday that it has expanded funding by $200,000. 

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding made the announcement that the PA Agricultural Business Development Center has increased funding to meet demand for Farm Vitality Planning Grants. To diversify, expand, or transition ownership of farms to future generations, the PA Farm Bill grants fund strategic business planning. 

“Governor Shapiro knows Pennsylvania agriculture is a key part of our Commonwealth’s economy and a pillar of so many of our communities,” Redding said in a statement. “For every one of Pennsylvania’s 52,700 farm families, business planning is more than just growing their bottom line. It is protecting their family legacy. 

Initiated as part of the historic PA Farm Bill in 2019, the program has thus far accepted 308 applications, funding more than $2,003,439 in project planning, financial and technical expertise to feed farm growth and sustainability. 

Farmers and prospective farmers are eligible for up to $7,500 to cover up to 75% of planning costs. Applications are being accepted until funds are exhausted.  Farm Vitality Planning Grants can be combined with other PA Farm Bill funding. 

To help plan and finance farm transitions, Farm Vitality Planning Grants can be combined with other PA Farm Bill funding, including the following: 

  • Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program. This program provides tax credits as an incentive to those who rent or sell agricultural assets to beginning farmers. Thus far, 21 farm owners have received Beginner Farmer Tax Credits, allowing them to collectively save $343,009 on their taxes. 
  • Beginning Farmer Realty Transfer Tax Exemptions. The department has certified 44 beginning famers purchasing preserved farmers and generating $492,311 in tax savings on the sale of those farms. 
  • Next Generation Farmer Loan Program. This program uses federal tax-exempt financing to reduce a farmer’s interest rate for capital purchases, including the purchase of farmland to help young families fund farm expansions and purchases. 

“Farm Vitality Grants help bring to the table the experience, in-depth knowledge, market analysis, and risk management expertise that is vital to realizing their vision,” said Redding, “and sustaining not only their farm’s future, but Pennsylvania’s future.” 

Final grant program introduced from Pa. Farm Bill

A $1 million grant program created to enhance the long-term health and vitality of Pennsylvania’s family farms was introduced Wednesday in front of hundreds of public officials at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

The Farm Vitality Grant Program is the last of the grant programs financed under Gov. Tom Wolf’s $23.1 million Pa. Farm Bill, the state’s first.

“Just as farmers are at the heart of Pennsylvania and its heritage, the heart of the Pa. Farm Bill is the Ag Business Development Center and its $1 million Farm Vitality Grant Program,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “We need Pennsylvania farm families to have sound business plans, because their success is Pennsylvania’s success.”

The Farm Vitality Grant Program is designed to help fund professional services for individuals and families planning for the future of their farm. Officials say the program will enhance the long-term health and vitality of farms through business planning, efficient transitions of farm ownership, strategic farm expansion, diversification of agricultural production and financial and technical expertise.

The state Farm Bill also includes programs to tackle other issues in the agricultural community, including the Agriculture Linked Investment Program to provide low-interest loans for conservation practices, the Farm-to-School Grant Program to increase nutrition and agriculture education opportunities in schools, and the Specialty Crop Block Program investing in Pennsylvania crops like hardwoods, hemp and hops.

State funds grants to address Pa’s projected agricultural workforce shortage

A projected workforce deficit in Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry in the coming decade has sparked the state’s approval of $500,000 in grants to fund Pennsylvania’s Ag and Youth Grant Program. The grants, part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, will fund 55 projects in 25 counties that aim to improve access to agriculture education in the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announces grants at Pennsylvania Farm Show on Jan. 6 – submitted

According to Gov. Wolf’s office, over the next 10 years, the state will reach a shortage of 75,000 agriculture workers.

“This $500,000 is the seed to tomorrow’s bountiful future for Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Gov. Wolf of the grants, adding that the funds will help train future entrepreneurs, scientists and agribusiness owners.

Eligible projects funded by the grants included those that are for education or workforce development seminars or field trips; agricultural safety training programs; and capital projects or equipment.

“All youth should have access to the same opportunities for growth and career development,” said Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, who made the grant announcement at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Jan. 6 in Harrisburg, where he met with young people who would benefit from the grants, including members of Pennsylvania chapters of the Future Farmers of America.

Hemp is big business in Pa.

This year, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued more than 300 permits to grow hemp on nearly 600 acres at more than 800 locations around the state, according to a press release.

Gov. Wolf visiting a hemp farm in Blair County -submitted

Hemp and marijuana are different species of the same plant, but unlike marijuana, hemp is grown mainly for fiber and seed and must maintain a lower concentration of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Gov. Tom Wolf and Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding highlighted the opportunities available to hemp growers and processors across the commonwealth at a recent visit to a hemp farm in Blair County.

Pennsylvania has a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on a new and in-demand market for hemp,” said Wolf. “This is a versatile product with many uses, and it’s a product that consumers want.”

Pennsylvania recently designated hemp as a controlled plant, which requires all growers to register and obtain permits through the Department of Agriculture.

“Hemp is a new/old crop that has the potential to make a big impact on Pennsylvania’s agricultural and economic landscape,” said Sec. Redding. “It’s a crop with both a rich history and a bright future here in the commonwealth.”

This summer, Wolf signed a state farm bill that created a state-level grant program to invest in and encourage farming of hemp.

Hemp was grown in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States until after World War II but became regulated along with marijuana and its cultivation was prohibited.