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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Pennsylvania Farmers Union Hosts their Annual Convention

Delegates Pass Special Orders of Business on Cannabis and Agritourism

One hundred family farmers and ranchers attended Pennsylvania Farmers Union’s (PFU) 2019 Convention last week, celebrating the organization’s success on the federal farm bill and in-state policy priorities. PFU delegates also participated in the organization’s unique, grassroots policy-setting process, and ultimately adopted the organization’s policy book and special orders of business to help guide the organization over the next year.

“We’re encouraged by the strong turnout at our convention this year, as it demonstrates the importance of our work and the enthusiasm farmers in our state have for bettering the state and the country,” said PFU President Heidi Secord. “As a voice for Pennsylvania’s farm families, our policy adoption process is the heart of our work. It guides our work as an organization, and ultimately influences what National Farmers Union brings to the table in Washington, D.C. This year is going to be a pivotal one for family farmers, and we want to be sure our members are well represented.

The Convention took place on February 6 at the Lancaster County Convention Center in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Winter Conference. The convention highlighted a presentation by a dairy panel made up of progressive Pennsylvania Dairy farmers. Sarah Lloyd, a dairy farmer and Director of Special Projects for the Wisconsin Farmers Union, moderated the session. The panel focused on resilient dairy farmers and diverse markets. "It is very powerful to be able to hear from farmers from other states," said Sarah Lloyd,. "Pennsylvania has great examples of farmers that are finding new ways to connect with consumers and get a better price for their products. We have lots to learn from each other on how we can build markets that actually work for family farmers."

The Convention also featured a farm-to-table meal, provided by PFU members. Convention attendees heard remarks from Heidi Secord, PA State President, Abby Ferris, Membership Director at NFU, Rob Larew, Sr. Vice President of Public Policy and Communications at NFU, and Colin O’Neil, Legislative Director for the Environmental Working Group.

“The Annual Convention provides us an opportunity to highlight our work and our collaborations with the national Local Food Safety Collaborative and the Pennsylvania State Department of Agriculture, who provided funding for educational outreach and trainings for Pennsylvania family farms.” said Secord. “Our speakers provided valuable insights, important discussion points and focused our membership on pertinent issues for policy debates.”

As a means of providing the organization a prescriptive set of priorities, the convention adopted the following Special Orders of Business:

Pennsylvania Farmers Union: 2019 Special Orders of Business


Recent developments around cannabis would suggest that at some point in the near future, its prohibition will end both state and nationwide. It has been observed that when medical cannabis was approved in our Commonwealth, the barriers to entry to become growers of cannabis were virtually insurmountable to small, family farmers. The purpose of PFU taking a position on legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis is to ensure that the same mistakes and inequities inherent in the current medical cannabis growing industry in PA are avoided if and when adult-use recreational cannabis becomes legal. And to allow small family farms equal opportunity to diversify their operations and potentially remain solvent and farming by adding this crop to their operation, should they choose to do so.

To that end, PFU supports:

Creation of a regulated and fair marketplace for medical and recreational cannabis. One which is accessible to the small family farms that comprise the majority of PA agriculture and does not favor out of state companies, monopolies, or large, well-funded conglomerates. PFU opposes a “pay to play” system, which disadvantages small family farms and farmers.

A permitting and operating system which is inclusive of a diverse number and size of suppliers so that small Pennsylvania farmers, businesses, and their employees can benefit from the market and be compensated fairly for their time and effort.

Reasonable fees and capital requirements to obtain the permits necessary to grow, process, store, transport or sell (retail or wholesale) cannabis-based products

Cannabis being federally declassified as a Schedule 1 Narcotic, and reclassified as an alternative agricultural crop.

Allowing access to the federally insured banking system for profits from legal medical and/or cannabis-based businesses.

Reasonable and scale appropriate security requirements so not to impede involvement of small operators

Limiting the number of licenses that one person or entity can obtain (including wholly owned subsidiaries), to prevent monopoly.

A “microbrewery model” which would allow growing, processing, and sale by the same operator, at the same location, so that growers who choose to could participate in the retail market.


1) Equitable access to medical and adult use recreational cannabis markets for small, family farms, the revenue from which could preserve their ability to stay in business.

2) Limiting the number of licenses that one person or entity can obtain (including wholly owned subsidiaries), to prevent monopoly.

3) Reasonable fees and capital requirements to obtain permits

4) Reasonable and scale appropriate security requirements so not to impede involvement of small operators

5) Removal of prohibitions against funds from cannabis-based businesses to the federally insured banking system

6) Bringing to light the idea that, done fairly & properly, adult-use recreational cannabis in PA has the potential to reverse the plight of struggling small farms throughout our Commonwealth AND provide much needed tax revenue.

PFU supports the passage of legislation, policies, regulations, and guidance at the state level that would protect farms engaging in agritourism activities as a diversified income stream related to their farming activities.


To provide a clear and representative Pennsylvania state definition of agritourism activities that are supportive to the primary use of agricultural production and incorporate such definition into the definition of “agricultural operation” as used in the Right to Farm Act, Agriculture, Communities, and Rural Environment Act, and other State statues, laws, and regulations that provide legal protections for such “agricultural operations;”

To provide guidelines as to what types of reasonable health, safety, and welfare zoning restrictions that can be imposed on permitted agritourism activities;

To pass a limited liability statute in Pennsylvania for state defined agritourism activities that will provide an exemption from liability for an agritourism operation with all appropriate licenses and permits for the death or injury of a participant in an agritourism activity if:

The injury or death is due to the inherent risk of the activity

The operation utilizes statutorily provided for signage language that warns participants of their assumption of risk.

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