HARRISBURG – Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-36) introduced a package of agriculture bills today that would protect agriculture entertainment businesses, facilitate the movement of farm equipment and eggs, and promote agriculture education and farmland preservation.
Senate Bill 395 would protect farm owners who open their land to agritainment activities, such as corn mazes, pick-your-own crop harvests, hay rides and farm vacations. Under current law, farmers involved in agritainment activities face serious liability risks when opening their land to the public. Brubaker’s legislation would preserve the right for an individual to sue a landowner who is grossly negligent, displays willful disregard for safety or intentionally causes injury, but landowners would be protected from liability in cases where no party is at fault.
“Agritainment activities represent a tremendous marketing opportunity for farmers to generate revenue and educate the public about the value of agriculture in Pennsylvania,” Brubaker said. “My bill will make it easier for farmers to engage in agritainment activities without putting their livelihood at risk.”
Brubaker also introduced legislation that would make it easier to transport farm equipment on Pennsylvania roads. Senate Bill 390 would allow for the transportation of wider equipment on Pennsylvania roads and permit farm equipment transportation at night if proper safety precautions are taken.
For producers using their own equipment, Brubaker’s legislation would increase the size of implements of husbandry permitted on roads during the day from 14 feet, 6 inches to 16 feet in width if additional safety precautions are taken. Under current law, movement of farm equipment larger than 14 feet, 6 inches requires a permit that is difficult for many farmers to obtain.
“The size of farm equipment has grown in recent years, and current restrictions make it very difficult for many farmers to transport equipment legally,” Brubaker said. “Farming is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year business, and we should remove restrictions on farmers that currently require them to break the law just to complete their daily tasks.”
Another bill in the agriculture package, Senate Bill 396, would make it easier to transport eggs in Pennsylvania. The legislation would allow egg trucks to exceed the current 80,000-pound gross weight limit included in the Vehicle Code. Trucks hauling milk for processing and domestic animal feed may exceed the weight limit under current law, and Brubaker’s proposal would parallel existing language regulating these activities in the Vehicle Code.
Brubaker added that current weight limits imposed on trucks hauling eggs mean that they are operating at approximately only 85 percent capacity, translating into increased fuel costs, higher personnel costs, additional wear and tear on Pennsylvania roads and increased pressure on the environment.
The agriculture package includes legislation that would update and modernize the definition of vocational agricultural education in the School Code. Senate Bill 389 would expand the definition of vocational agriculture education to include careers in food sciences, agricultural mechanics, marketing, agricultural research, horticulture, agriculture and rural economics, energy systems and other programs offered through Pennsylvania’s agriculture education programs.
Brubaker also introduced legislation that would promote the state’s farmland preservation efforts. Senate Bill 394 would provide local taxing authorities with the option to exempt more farmland preserved through agricultural easements from property tax millage increases.
Under current law, counties, local governments and school districts have the option to provide an exemption from property tax increases for farmland preserved through the State Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program. Senate Bill 394 would expand this option for farmland properties acquired by a non-profit land trust as well.
Brubaker said that the measure would help protect family farms and ensure that agricultural land remains in use for years to come.
Pennsylvania Senate Republican News @ http://www.pasenategop.com/news/2011/0211/brubaker-020311.htm