HARRISBURG – The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), today advanced bills that would support the food supply chain and allow two important agriculture-related businesses to reopen safely during the COVID-19 emergency.
“We have a responsibility to ensure the essential needs of our citizens and our communities are being met…and right now, they are not,” Causer said. “Statistics and geography are important in assessing the spread of coronavirus, but there are many other factors we must consider when looking at how to move forward through the pandemic and meet those needs safely.”
House Bill 2429 would require the Department of Community and Economic Development to issue waivers to allow lawn and garden equipment and supply stores to reopen during the COVID-19 emergency. House Bill 2436 would require the same type of waiver for pet groomers. Both types of businesses would have to comply with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“At a time when people are struggling financially and there are weaknesses in the food supply chain, our citizens should not be denied the opportunity to grow their own food to feed their families,” Causer said. “The governor’s business closure order deemed garden centers non-essential, but big box stores that also sell ‘essential’ supplies have continued to sell garden products. The order put our small businesses in many sectors at a disadvantage when their smaller scale operations would be more conducive to public health and safety guidelines.”
Pet groomers could also easily comply with CDC guidelines, Causer said. “Having pets properly groomed is an animal health issue, as matted fur can lead to skin irritation and infection,” he said. “There is no reason pet groomers cannot resume providing this essential service in a safe manner.”
The committee also approved House Bill 2435, which would create a Food Processing Plant Reimbursement Program to help pay for personal protective equipment and better, more frequent cleaning at the state’s food processing plants. This is vital to protecting employees and ensuring these operations continue to keep the state’s food supply chain intact.
“Farmers are still producing the food, but if there is no place to process it, the supply chain is broken,” Causer said. “We can’t afford to let this food go to waste.”
The bills now go to the full House for consideration.