LNP recently wrote about the rapid rise in organic produce across Pennsylvania.  As it is with most other agricultural production, Lancaster County is leading the way in this increase.  The article says that the sale of certified organic products in Pennsylvania doubled in 2016.  Organic products accounted for $660 million, or about 9% of all agricultural products in Pennsylvania.  This is already a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s agriculture, and it will only continue to grow.  According to the LNP article one in every four organic operations in Pennsylvania is located in Lancaster County.

Part of the article focuses on Ebenezer Groceries in Ephrata and its owner, Jonah Dodd.  Ebenezer Groceries is a discount grocery store.  But Jonah has dedicated a large portion of his store to the sale of organic produce, even though organic produce costs a little more than his other items. Grocery stores like Whole Foods and Wegmans will soon be established in Lancaster County.  These stores have committed to featuring local produce, including certified organic produce.  It is telling that the demand for organic products comes from a wide range of shoppers, from more expensive stores like Whole Foods to discount stores like Ebenezer Groceries.  This tells me that the desire for organic produce, meat, eggs, dairy, etc., is not a passing fancy.  This demand is only going to increase, and Lancaster County farmers will continue to lead the way in this area.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

It was my pleasure to attend the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s 40th annual Agricultural Industry Banquet on Thursday, November 10.  The banquet is always a great opportunity to see many of the thousands of people involved in Lancaster County agriculture.  This includes not only the farmers, but people like equipment and feed suppliers, insurance carriers, accountants, bankers and even attorneys who support Lancaster County farmers and agriculture every day.  Continue Reading Lancaster Agricultural Industry Banquet Highlights

Last month the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Ag Issues Forum was certainly informational.  Less than twelve hours before the  meeting, torrential flooding closed a portion of Route 30 for two hours and opened a three foot wide sinkhole in the highway.  Twelve hours later, the topic of the Ag Issues Forum was storm water management regulations.

The speakers for the month were Jim Caldwell of Rettew, Inc. and Peter Hughes of Red Barn Consulting. Jim and Peter discussed the history of storm water management regulations, both in general and specifically how they relate to agricultural projects.

Jim and Peter both discussed that the DEP’s Storm Water Management Manual does not have special regulations or Best Management Practices (BMPs) that relate to specifically to agricultural projects.  As a result, construction on a fifty acre farm needs the same kind of storm water basins as a two hundred house residential development or a strip mall. Obviously the concerns about storm water, and the ability to manage storm water, are different for these different situations. Continue Reading Storm Water Management in Lancaster County

In September we blogged about an update on efforts to protect farmers’ ability to sell excess electricity generated by methane digesters used on the farms. Electric companies are trying to limit the amount of electricity farmers can sell. But a proposed bill introduced by State Representative David Zimmerman, would remove the limits on the excess electricity produced by methane digesters. Recently, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission adopted regulations that accomplished the same goal. While some sources of renewable electricity, like solar farms, are limited to the amount of electricity they can sell back to electric companies, most farmers will not be subject to these same limits. According to the new regulations, the limits will not apply to electricity generators if they are part of the DEP’s Chesapeake Watershed Implementation Plan, or part of a farm’s approved Nutrient Management Plan. In the Susquehanna Valley, we believe that this should allow any farmer with an anaerobic methane digester to sell all of his or her excess electricity to the appropriate power companies. Continue Reading Update on Electricity Generated by Methane Digesters

Farming is more important to the economy of Lancaster County and Pennsylvania than you may imagine.  At the February 11 Ag Issues Forum, presented by the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mike Peachey and Lisa Riggs discussed just how much agriculture benefits all of Lancaster County.  Peachey, a director of Lancaster County Agriculture Council talked about the impacts:

  • The actual products taken from Lancaster County farms – the milk, eggs, produce, etc., produce 1.5 billion dollars yearly.
  • The additional income generated by Lancaster County farms — including food processing, sales, equipment manufacturing and maintenance, etc., generate another $6.7 billion each year.
  • Additional agricultural related services, like fuel, electricity and consulting generates another $2 billion.
  • Farmers and farm workers make up 2% of the population of Lancaster County. Farming accounts for 21% of the total economy of Lancaster County.
  • Lancaster County is responsible for over 20% of the agricultural revenue for the entire state of Pennsylvania. For poultry, this rises to 36% of the entire state.

We all benefit from the beauty of the farmland that surrounds us every day but it’s good to be reminded of the actual economic impact as well.  We are fortunate to call Lancaster County home.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Land Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

CowsAnother title for this post could have been “Are my cows violating your constitutional rights?”   In less than two years, the Pennsylvania Courts have made two rulings that greatly affect all environmental issues in the State.  Although the Courts did not specifically talk about farming, it is likely these decisions will impact farming projects.

In Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made a landmark decision about how governmental entities look at environmental issues.  Robinson Township was a challenge to Act 13 of 2012, which gave overwhelming rights to oil and gas companies, particularly in the Marcellus Shale regions. Article I, § 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that:

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment.  Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court started by saying that this section of the Constitution is “inherent in man’s nature and preserved rather than created by the Pennsylvania Constitution.”  This means that environmental rights are comparable to your freedom of speech, or your right to pursue happiness. Continue Reading Do Livestock Need to Know Constitutional Law? The Effect of Court Rulings on PA Farm Projects