ACRE farming legislation
What is ACRE?
After years of trying, the agri-business lobby finally got legislation passed that attempts to limit local government ability to regulate factory farms to protect rural communities, public health and natural resources. PennFuture had worked successfully to defeat similar legislation, persuading Governor Rendell to veto legislation passed in 2003. As part of his veto message, the Governor directed the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a “comprehensive, progressive” plan to deal with the issue of conflicts between local governments and factory farms. The agencies came up with the Plan for the Protection of Agriculture, Rural Communities and the Environment (ACRE).
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When first unveiled in August of 2004, PennFuture considered ACRE to be a step in the right direction.
However, we voiced concerns about several elements of the program. But in April of 2005, ACRE was put into legislative language and changed dramatically. PennFuture vigorously opposed the original legislative version which would have created a biased Agricultural Review Board that would hear challenges to local ordinances.
Stiff opposition to the original bill led to substantial changes that improved it.
Challenges to local ordinances will now be reviewed by the Attorney General’s office. PennFuture, however, maintained opposition to the bill. PennFuture is monitoring the Attorney General’s implementation of the bill. Here are the main elements of the ACRE legislation as passed:
- Allows farmers or others to ask the Attorney General for a review of an existing or proposed ordinance that they believe is “unauthorized.”
- If Attorney General determines that an ordinance is unauthorized, the office brings a suit in Commonwealth Court.
- The loser in the court case would be responsible for the winner’s attorney’s fees as well as their own.
- Adds new requirements for new and expanding livestock operations to control odors, but pre-empts local odor ordinances even in communities that have existing factory farms not required to control odor.