Ag Rallies Against Unlawful Local Ordinances

More than 300 Pennsylvania farmers and ag leaders press the case against renegade local ordinances. Compiled by staff

Published on: Apr 16, 2004

In an unusual showing of ag unity, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania State Grange and Penn-Ag Industries leaders converged on the Harrisburg capitol early this week, pressing for legislative action against local farm ordinances that violate state laws. The Grange and Penn-Ag Industries joined Farm Bureau (PFB) members in warning that unfounded fears and false claims threatens to jeopardize agriculture’s future in the commonwealth.

"Pennsylvania has a large and robust food processing industry because they locate and operate where the food is produced. It's why the misleading attacks on larger family-owned livestock farms cause great concern," said Guy Donaldson, PFB president.

"If we lose our production capacity, the loss of our agricultural infrastructure will follow. That includes financial lending, farm suppliers, transportation companies and food processors. Their departure would be harmful to farms of every size and every commodity in the commonwealth, not to mention the impact on consumers and our economy."

PennAg Industries President Robert Grobengieser affirmed that thanks partly to supportive public policies in the past, Pennsylvania is widely recognized as a place that "grows the industry that grows, processes and delivers our food. Food will always flow to Pennsylvania from our global economy. But do we want more of our farm products originating in other countries where their food industries produce to questionable standards of quality and safety? And, should our nation rely on other countries for our food security?"

The challenge

"Responding to false claims and unfounded fears about large farm operations, more and more townships are considering or adopting ordinances that go far beyond the environmentally sound farm practices already required by numerous state laws," said Betsy Huber, Master of Pennsylvania Grange. 'We call them illegal local ordinances because they’re exactly that -- actions which are prohibited by Pennsylvania's "Right To Farm" law and other statutes.

"Thoughtful zoning and planning primarily to determine where farming is best located has long been an accepted practice of local governments. But actual regulation of the business end of farming has generally resided with our state and federal governments."

In December, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell vetoed legislation that would have helped resolve this problem, noted Donaldson. "In his veto message, the Governor said he agreed with the goal of the legislation, but said a more comprehensive approach is needed.

"The Governor acknowledged there have been significant instances of local governments enacting nuisance ordinances that directly violate state law. State laws continue to be broken and more illegal local ordinances are being proposed every month around Pennsylvania."

Donaldson then challenged the governor "to propose the solution he has promised. We look forward to working with him, Ag Secretary Dennis Wolff, Secretary of Environmental Protection Kathleen McGinty and the General Assembly to resolve this problem once and for all."