2012 Research Papers
The research papers listed below have been prepared to assist county Farm Bureau’s with 2012 policy development. They cover some emerging issues which Farm Bureau members may wish to address in the consideration of policies, along with other subjects.
Please click on the titles of each research paper to be taken to that specific paper.
State Issues - Summary and Questions
Farm Chemicals - Regulation and Use of Farm Chemical Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
Pesticides used in agriculture are regulated by the EPA, including product review, use approval, labeling requirements, and Worker Protection Standards (WPS). The National Institute for Safety and Health (NIOSH) is studying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and its proper use by farmers and farmworkers as related to pesticide application. Eventually, their findings may become recommendations for not only marketing PPEs, but changes to chemical and PPE labeling regulations, and improved educational opportunities for farmers. Is there enough access to training for pesticide handling and licensing? Is the training adequately covering PPE use and equipment selection?
Farmland Preservation - Future Funding
Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of farms and acres permanently preserved for agricultural production. Since the beginning of PA’s Farmland Preservation Program in 1993, the primary source of funding has been the state imposed cigarette tax. Governor Corbett’s plan to separate farmland preservation funding from the cigarette tax as part of his proposed 2012 – 2013 state budget has raised concerns about the future funding of the program. If the Governor’s proposal were to be implemented, what would be a suitable and dedicated alternative source of funding for this program?
Nutrient Reduction - More Public Financing for Agricultural Nutrient Reduction?
Consensus is increasing about the economic benefit of financing projects to reduce nutrient runoff from farms to achieve state nutrient and sediment reduction goals in watersheds. Most now believe that it would be less expensive overall for Pennsylvania to achieve these goals through projects related to farms than through more traditional investments like sewage treatment and stormwater systems. Should there be a priority commitment of state and/or local public funds to achieve goals through development and implementation of coordinated projects for agricultural nutrient and sediment reduction? If so, where should the millions of additional public fund dollars come from?
PA Public Employee Pension - Confronting the Costs
A substantial state and local tax increase is in the making for Pennsylvania residents. Unionized state employees have retirement pension benefits that are guaranteed under their contracts. A large number of municipal governments also have employee retirement programs, with no uniformity in plans or administration. What additional policy positions should PFB have to guide comprehensive pension reform in Pennsylvania?
Stream Cleaning - Do State Regulations Need a Revision to Facilitate Stream Cleaning?
Flooding of streams has impacted Pennsylvania communities and farms located near waterways for many generations. In September 2011, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, caused extensive flooding in PA. Many landowners believe that increased regulations have hindered efforts to periodically clean streams to preserve their original course and reduce damages from flooding. Are changes needed in state permit requirements to allow more frequent stream cleaning work to occur while still providing for sufficient and reasonable environmental oversight and protection?
Transportation - Funding Pennsylvania's Transportation System
An estimated $3.5 billion funding gap means that Pennsylvania is facing a serious transportation funding crisis. Declining fuel tax revenues and unpredictable federal funding, have all negatively impacted the state’s transportation budget. With more than 5,000 bridges classified as structurally deficient and 8,400 miles of roads in poor condition, our transportation infrastructure is in critical condition. If the cost of doing nothing means a further weakening of PA’s transportation infrastructure and the loss of use for key bridges and roadways, what can PFB support as options for sustained improvement? Of those potential solutions listed, what are the most attractive options for agriculture?
Aflatoxin Testing for Crop Insurance
When grain is offered for sale at elevators, the presence of aflatoxin means the producers’ check is docked . Later, when samples are submitted for crop insurance reimbursement, the grain is often found to be aflatoxin-free. The One Sample Strategy (OSS) by Office of the Texas State Chemist (OTSC) allows grain elevators to select the same aflatoxin test results for both grading and for valuing an insured loss. Would it be beneficial to have a federal “single test” procedure that could be used nationwide? What common procedures might be established?
Animal Disease Traceability
Foreign animal disease outbreaks have the potential to create massive financial losses in the livestock sector. Last year, USDA APHIS proposed a rule to establish minimum identification and documentation standards for animals shipped across state lines. There is a discrepancy between PFB policy, which calls for mandatory animal ID, and AFBF policy, which calls for voluntary participation. Should animal ID be mandatory? Should AFBF clarify policy to address the mandatory nature of the ADT system for interstate movements? Is the mandatory ID of animals for interstate shipment in USDA’s proposed traceability system acceptable to Farm Bureau under current policy?
Futures markets allow agricultural producers to transfer their price risk to other investors. Increasingly, futures have become inextricably intertwined with other marketing institutions. Thus, futures markets not only allow one means of transferring risk, they inform all agricultural marketing arrangements and influence price discovery in other related markets. For example, when MF Global filed for Chapter 11, account holders were surprised to find their assets in trading accounts frozen. Is it feasible to impose limits on leverage for the proprietary trading of brokerage firms, and if so, howshould appropriate risk ratios be determined? Should the amount of leverage be required information to be made available to customers? Are new or additional limits needed to regulate the type of financial instruments allowed for the investment of funds held in segregated accounts?
The Delaware, Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers as well as Lake Erie are used to transport agricultural goods to market – in our country and around the globe. There is a problem with silt/soil removal along the nation’s river system, causing barges and carriers to load their cargo in increasingly shallow waters. Currently Harbor Maintenance Trust (HMT) funds are used to dredge and maintain waterways for navigation. What would the impact be on American consumers if the inland waterway system were to fail? How would failure of the inland waterway system affect farmers’ agricultural transportation options in each state? How much would shipping costs increase if U.S. agricultural exports had to transit through a transshipment port? What level of funding is necessary to properly operate and maintain the Inland Waterway System? Should Congress allocate more general treasury funds to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF)? Should AFBF support an increase in the barge diesel fuel tax? How would privatization work?
Preharvest Food Safety
Pre-harvest food safety has become a topic of increasing focus, particularly in the beef industry. Current research suggests that at least two pre-harvest interventions, certain probiotics and vaccines, have the potential to be effective in reducing fecal shedding in cattle. What should the role of the producer be in pre-harvest food safety? What role should government play? Are there specific E. coli tools that producers would be willing to use? Should Farm Bureau push for USDA approval of e-coli management tools? How can cattle producers and processors work together to ensure that cattle arrive at the processing facility with lower presence of E. coli?
By adapting their production practices and offerings, farmers are finding that they can capture a higher margin. Whether they sell direct-to-retail or through wholesale channels, if it is sold with special product attributes such as being local, organic, grass-fed, or small farm-raised, it may have a higher value. A significant portion of the value is based on retail consumer demand (“retail agriculture”). Should Farm Bureau identify retail agriculture as an issue area for policy action? Should Farm Bureau work to enhance producer access to additional marketing channels and infrastructure for local and regional food systems? What can be done to encourage the federal agencies’ use of locally grown food in school lunch programs and increase access to this market for farmers?
Sales Tax on Internet Sales
Many rural communities find themselves losing their retail base. Local retailers are competing with Internet retailers who do not have to collect sales tax if they do not have a physical presence in that state. This deprives local and state government of tax revenue needed to provide essential services. Do you agree or disagree that remote sellers have an unfair price advantage by not collecting state and local sales taxes? Does this have an impact in your community? Should Farm Bureau policy be changed to support allowing states and local governments to collect sales taxes from out-of-state