PA dairy farmers encouraged to manage risk with federal coverage

Pennsylvania dairy farmers were encouraged Monday by Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding to enroll in USDA’s Dairy Margin Coverage Program and take advantage of federal risk-management protection. 

The USDA Farm Service Agency provides a safety net for dairy farmers when the price difference for milk and feed falls below the amount selected at enrollment by the producer. Dairy Margin Coverage was created under the 2018 federal Farm Bill. In 2021, one-third of Pennsylvania’s dairy farms were enrolled in the program and received $88,861,920 in payments averaging $51,936 per farm. 

“Protecting your bottom line against price fluctuations you can’t control just makes sense,” said Redding. “Dairy Margin Coverage is a smart part of every dairy producer’s risk management strategy.” 

Producers wishing to receive coverage in 2023 must enroll between Oct. 17 and Dec. 9. Those interested should visit Dairy Margin Coverage program information on the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) website, fsa.usda.gov. PA dairy producers can visit their county FSA office by Dec. 9 

Information on funding and additional resources to support financial planning for agricultural operations can be found at agricultue.pa.gov.

High priority placed on hemp sales, exports in PA

Proposals for nonprofit marketing and promotion organizations for projects designed to increase sales, export or consumer awareness of Pennsylvania hemp products were called for Monday by Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. 

The minimum grant is $1,000. Eligible projects may include regional or national promotion, and those that leverage other funding and public-private partnerships will receive special consideration. Projects must have started on or after July 1, 2022, and must be completed prior to or on June 30, 2023. A competitive process will be used to select applications. 

“Hemp has presented a unique opportunity to grow an industry from the ground up, supplying seemingly limitless sustainable construction materials, fiber and food products,” Redding said. “These grants will feed a new industry that was once a staple of Pennsylvania’s economy and is again presenting opportunities for farm income and jobs as well as new possibilities for climate-friendly, environmentally beneficial products.” 

To apply for grants, qualified nonprofits can visit the PA Department of Community and Economic Development online application system. Applications will be accepted up to December 2, 2022, at 5 p.m. EST. Grant guidelines are listed in the October 15, 2022, issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. 

More than $157,000 was awarded in 2021 to three projects aimed at increasing consumer awareness of hemp products in PA and increase fiber and food hemp markets and opportunities in the commonwealth. The Wolf Administration has used matching grants to feed growth in the hemp industry. To date, hemp-specific grant investments total more than $923,000. 

Additional information regarding hemp in Pennsylvania can be found by visiting Agriculture.pa.gov/hemp.

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 (Photo: Submitted)
Gov. Wolf visiting a hemp farm in Blair County (Photo: 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.