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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 16-1642



Agricultural Research Project Contractors

[46 Pa.B. 6022]
[Saturday, September 24, 2016]

 The Department of Agriculture (Department) is soliciting applications to conduct agricultural research on one or more of the following research topic areas, with the research to be conducted during the period from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, with the possibility, but not the assurance, of extending that research into subsequent years.

 Interested applicants must deliver a detailed research proposal to the Department no later than Friday, October 7, 2016. The research proposal should: (1) identify the applicant and the contact person for the applicant on all matters relating to the proposal; (2) explain how the project aligns with the one of the following research topic areas; (3) detail the proposed research, including a needs statement, a statement of expected impact of research outcomes, staffing for the project, project objectives and methodologies; (4) identify the presence of any additional funding partners and the extent of that funding; (5) describe the extent of any support, participation and funding from agricultural industry, including any written confirmation of that support, participation or funding; and (6) contain a detailed budget statement for the project.

 Research proposals shall be delivered to Michael Smith, Executive Deputy Secretary, Department of Agriculture, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110.

 The Department will evaluate each complete research proposal it receives, applying a 100-point scale assessing up to 10 points for the research project needs statement, up to 15 points for the impact of research outcomes, up to 5 points for the presence of additional funding partners, up to 30 points for the research methodology, up to 20 points for project evaluation and replicability and up to 20 points for support and participation from industry.

 The Department will review each research proposal and mail or deliver its response (whether approval, denial or a request for clarification or additional information) to the applicant within 10 working days of receipt of the research proposal.

Research topic areas. The research topics the Department is interested in funding are as follows:

 1. Ongoing multiyear research projects. The Department has, in previous years, provided funding for various multiyear research projects that might be continued or extended to complete research the Department identifies as addressing continued priorities of the agricultural industry. The Department will consider proposals to continue funding this research.

 2.  Nutrient imbalance and infrastructure opportunities in western Pennsylvania. Central Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River Basin supports a disproportionately high concentration of poultry, swine and beef operations relative to other regions of this Commonwealth. This high degree of regional density has resulted in manure supplies in excess of what is needed on cropland within the basin, contributing to increased nutrient loads into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Further research is needed to identify whether opportunities exist to locate new animal agriculture operations into other areas of this Commonwealth, particularly western Pennsylvania. The Department seeks research proposals that aim to address this question, as well as the available manure management and trucking capacity to transport manure from central Pennsylvania to western Pennsylvania; the types of land and acreage in western Pennsylvania that can serve as an alternatives for manure application; and identification of the basic infrastructure needs in western Pennsylvania to support animal agriculture, such as animal processing facilities, feed mills and equipment dealers.

 3.  Farm safety. There is an extant body of research on the efficacy of practices and technologies to preserve the safety of farmers engaged in production agriculture. Despite this knowledge, adoption of these practices and technologies remains limited, threatening the lives and livelihoods of farmers. The Department will accept research proposals for a behavioral study of what makes a farmer more or less likely to make the rather modest investment in farm safety practices and technologies, with the objective of finding what messages do and do not resonate with the target audience and spur a farmer to action.

 4. Plant pest control development, testing and monitoring. Research on pesticide efficacy testing for invasive species such as Spotted Lanternfly, Allium Leaf Miner and other new threats is crucial to provide options for Commonwealth response and for citizen action. Research is needed on formulation testing, treatment threshold development, cost/benefit analysis and development of best management practices. Research identifying organic options for new pest response is also critical for a growing sector of production.

 Additionally, new trap development will always play a key role in responding to new invasive threats. Though many existing technologies can be employed, detection and population monitoring remain as key challenges. There is a need for research on how to develop new detection tools, modify existing technology and better understand invasive species biology.

 5. Plant pathogens. Understanding the biology and epidemiology of high consequence plant pathogens is critical to controlling and preserving plant health. More research is needed to better understand the biology of these pathogens, including hosts and vectors that could contribute to the introduction or spread of these threats to and within this Commonwealth. Improving detection methods and developing control recommendations for pathogens is vital. The Department will accept proposals that seek to contribute to this body of knowledge, as well as toward a better understanding of critical control points and best management practices to prevent the spread of plant pests.

 6. Farmland preservation. Over the past 3 decades, the Commonwealth has invested nearly $1.5 billion to protect from the prospect of development high-value farmland for agricultural production in perpetuity. Ten years ago, a study indicated that farmland contributes far more in tax dollars than it demands in services, unlike residential land which generally demands more in services than it contributes in tax dollars. New contemporary research is needed to update this understanding of the return oninvestment in the public's support for farmland preservation programs. The Department seeks research proposals for projects that quantify this return, as well as the direct and indirect economic contribution of preserved farms to this Commonwealth's economy, and the actual and avoided public service costs for preserved land compared to developed tracts.

 7. Dairy industry. Dairy is a key economic engine within this Commonwealth, serving as the largest sector of the agricultural industry. Recently, milk prices at the farm level have fallen and milk production has increased. Questions to be answered by research include: (a) what are the milk product trends over the past 10 years in this Commonwealth; (b) what is forecast for the next 10 years and how does this shape dairy policy; and (c) where is there a shortage or excess of processing capacity and how does this affect in-State production?

 8. Banking and market development. Access to capital is often cited as a challenge for those in production agriculture, yet there is a dearth of research as to the accessibility to debt financing among the agriculture industry and different geographic regions of this Commonwealth. The Department seeks research proposals to assess the current lending environment in the farming industry in this Commonwealth. Proposals should attempt to quantify total loan originations, total loan volume, operating loans as percent of total nonreal estate loans and delinquency rates, among other factors. Research proposals should also seek to identify differences in loan activity and performance between counties or regions, or both, of this Commonwealth; factors influencing loan repayments; what barriers exist to accessing financial capital; and whether particular counties or regions of this Commonwealth are underserved by financial service providers and products.

 9. Workforce development. Developing a workforce development plan specific to agriculture is a priority of the Department. Initial research suggests nearly 75,000 employment vacancies will occur over the next decade within the food and fiber industries in this Commonwealth. The Department will accept research proposals that attempt to better understand how agriculture and food employers train employees in occupations that do not require formal education; whether preferred industry certifications exist; and what short-term, skill-based courses or training programs are presently used to advance employees beyond entry-level jobs. Particular emphasis will be given to those proposals that employ a mixed methods approach combining quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews.

Notice of additional research. The Department plans to solicit applications from research institutions and other entities to conduct additional research specific to animal health and animal sciences at a later date.


[Pa.B. Doc. No. 16-1642. Filed for public inspection September 23, 2016, 9:00 a.m.]

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