– The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on Wednesday in Harrisburg approved several bills aimed at helping Pennsylvania dairy farmers, including one piece of legislation introduced by local state Rep. Joe Kerwin (R-Dauphin/Schuylkill) that would streamline the certification process for milk testers.
“Dairy farmers play an important role in our local and statewide economy,” Kerwin said. “Dairy farms help to put milk in the glasses of Pennsylvania families and money in the pockets of farm owners and workers.”
Milk samples are taken when milk is picked up at a farm and the samples are used to determine butterfat content and other characteristics associated with value and quality.
Individuals who collect and test milk samples are certified annually by the Milk Marketing Board (MMB). Milk sanitation regulations administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture require field evaluation of milk testers, weighers and samplers every two years and that evaluation is conducted by the department.
Kerwin’s bill would extend from one year to two the MMB certification process so it can be conducted in coordination with the Department of Agriculture evaluations, thereby saving time and money.
“We have a situation where two different government entities are performing quality control tests at two different intervals and it’s causing unnecessary headaches and complications for dairy farmers,” Kerwin said. “This is a commonsense measure to ensure we’re not placing an undue burden on Pennsylvania dairy farmers.”
The committee approved several other bills on Wednesday, including:
• House Bill 223
: This proposal would create Keystone Opportunity Dairy Zones – similar to existing Keystone Opportunity Zones – that would provide tax exemptions, deductions, abatements or credits for a limited time to dairy farms located within specific areas inside the Commonwealth.
• House Bill 224
: This legislation would empower the MMB to fix, establish, collect and distribute milk premiums, and also would enable the MMB to transfer excess money within the Milk Marketing Fund to the state budget or for the General Assembly to appropriate money from the state budget to the Milk Marketing Fund specifically for authorized payments to producers, dealers or handlers of milk.
• House Bill 2397
: This legislation would create the Whole Milk in PA Schools Act and enable schools to purchase with state or local funds whole milk or reduced-fat milk to offer to students.
• House Bill 2456
: This proposal would increase from $150 per day to $1,000 per day the amount of money milk dealers may pay to the MMB in lieu of having their licenses suspended.
• House Bill 1847
: This legislation would change the name of the MBB to the Pennsylvania Milk Board.
All of the bills, including Kerwin’s House Bill 2457, were approved by the committee and now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration.