A recommendation of the Dairy Future Commission, Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 434 into law on June 30, which offers milk sell-by date and best-by date labeling flexibility to dairy processors.
“Strengthening the dairy economy means strengthening consumer purchasing power of milk in the marketplace,” Redding said. “Act 62 provides consumer choice. It is a commitment to freshness and transparency that makes Pennsylvania dairy an easy choice for consumers. We are grateful to Senator Vogel for championing this legislation — it is a win for Pennsylvania dairy and one of the many achievements of the Dairy Future Commission.”
Introduced by Sen. Vogel as Senate Bill 434, Act 62 amends Title 3 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in food protection, providing for both milk sell-by date and best-by date labeling.
Prior to the amendment, milk followed a 17-day milk code that caused grocers and consumers to throw milk away after the 17-day sell-by date was reached. This caused viable milk to go to waste as food safety practices have proven to extend milk shelf life up to 21 days.
With laboratory testing, dairy processors can now seek approval from the PA Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Food Safety to label milk with best-by dates that more appropriately reflect shelf life on a case-by-case basis.
Milk shelf life dating is not considered a food safety issue by FDA or state regulatory authorities.
“Consumers rank freshness, as determined by the date code, as the most important attribute when purchasing milk,” said Sen. Vogel. “Act 62 eliminated the arbitrary 17-day ‘sell by’ date requirement in favor of setting industry standards to provide realistic guidelines for determining milk’s actual shelf life.”
Vogel said the law eliminated a barrier that made it extremely difficult for processors to bid to provide Pennsylvania milk to those who want to sell through national food suppliers and wholesalers.
“Those suppliers typically require a longer ‘sell by’ date interval, which prevented Pennsylvania farmers from receiving these contracts,” Vogel said. “Act 62 leveled the playing field to allow our dairy farmers to compete in the marketplace.”
Prior to Act 62, Pennsylvania milk was at a competitive disadvantage on store shelves, as out of state milk, extended shelf life milks and plant-based beverages printed longer codes in accordance to their state regulations. With open codes, choosing Pennsylvania dairy becomes an easy choice for consumers for both freshness and locality.
Pennsylvania ranks 7th nationally in total milk production, with nearly 520,000 cows producing more than 10.6 billion pounds of milk annually. The industry supports 53,300 jobs and contributes $14.1 billion to the state’s economy.
The PA Dairy Future Commission, the result of Act 66, signed by Gov. Wolf in July 2019, was tasked with reviewing the status of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry and making recommendations to support a successful future. Its final report, released to the General Assembly August 1, 2020, outlines recommendations to strengthen the dairy economy, including the amendment of the 17-day milk code to an open code.
DEP announces $1M grant funding
for small businesses and farmers
Leaders from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) this week announced that $1 million in 2021 Small Business Advantage Grant funding is available to small businesses and farmers who want to improve their operations through energy efficiency, pollution prevention, and natural resource protection.
“Many small business owners with an innovative mindset see the economic opportunity in energy efficiency and sustainability,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “DEP is committed to assisting small business owners and small farmers in Pennsylvania who want to improve their operations, reduce operating costs, and increase profitability, while helping to improve the natural resources all Pennsylvanians depend on.”
Pennsylvania small business owners and farmers with 100 or fewer full-time employees can get Small Business Advantage Grants for HVAC and boiler upgrades, high-efficiency LED lighting, solvent recovery and waste recycling systems, auxiliary power units that eliminate truck engine idling, and other projects that reduce energy use.
Grant funding also supports stream bank buffers, fencing to keep livestock out of streams, and other agricultural stormwater runoff management projects that reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in local waters.
The 2021 Small Business Advantage Grants program has $1 million available for projects. Small businesses and farms can apply for 50 percent matching funds up to $5,000. Extra consideration is given to those in Environmental Justice areas. Information on how to apply is available at www.dep.pa.gov/smallbusinessadvantagegrants.
Last year, 212 small businesses and farms received more than $950,000 in total funding. Their projects saved over 6.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity, reduced diesel fuel use by over 20,000 gallons, eliminated almost 73 tons of coal use, prevented over 200,000 pounds of sediment and 7,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering waterways, and had other positive impacts on the environment.
Wolf Administration, Penn State partner to provide retirement planning information for farmers
The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities is partnering with the Penn State Extension to launch a free, online program to help farmers with retirement planning.
Farmers can learn about investment strategies, fraud awareness, planning, budgeting, and saving for the future.
“Future financial planning is important for all Pennsylvanians,” said Katrina Boyer, Investor Education Coordinator, Department of Banking and Securities. “Regardless of your livelihood, ensuring you have adequately saved to support you and your family can help ensure stress-free days throughout your retirement.”
The two sessions are:
– Farmers Can Retire Too: Budgeting, Planning, and Saving
Aug. 19 – 10 a.m.-11 a.m.
– Farmers Can Retire Too: Retirement Planning
Sept. 16 – 10a.m.-11 a.m.
“If Pennsylvania’s farmers don’t have a retirement or transition plan, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a reliable food system,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “This is an invaluable opportunity that will help to ensure the continued success of Pennsylvania’s farms, and therefore success for all of Pennsylvania.”
The program is free and open to the public. Registration is required. A third presentation will be offered by an estate planning professional.
AG DeFoor launches initiative to improve services to taxpayers
Auditor General Timothy L. DeFoor this week announced an initiative to modernize his department’s operations to better serve taxpayers and appointed department veteran Tracie Fountain to serve as Chief Transformation Officer.
“We need to make sure we are doing the job taxpayers need us to do in the best and most efficient way possible,” DeFoor said. “I’m very pleased to appoint Tracie Fountain, an experienced auditor and accountant, to lead our department’s transformation.”
DeFoor noted that despite receiving a modest funding increase in the most recent state budget, the department continues to operate at roughly the same funding level it had in 1997, but with many fewer employees. The department’s appropriation for the current fiscal year is approximately $38.8 million.
“It’s become abundantly clear that this department cannot continue to do things the way we’ve always done them, especially under such tight financial constraints,” DeFoor said. “We’ll perform a top-down review of our operations and look for opportunities to adopt continual process improvements wherever we can.”
The first phase of the transformation project will involve performing a complete assessment of the organization aimed at analyzing workflow processes, skill gaps, training needs and technology requirements. It will include asking employees for their input.
To lead this effort, Auditor General DeFoor named Tracie Fountain as the Department’s Chief Transformation Officer, effective Aug. 30. Fountain, a CPA with more than 30 years of service to the department, currently serves as an Audit Bureau Director for Children and Youth Services.
“Tracie’s well-established track record as an accountant and as a bureau director make her ideal in this new role,” DeFoor said. “We will transform our department into a national model for how to protect accountability in government and ensure continued transparency in how taxpayer dollars are spent.”