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March/April 2006

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Research Highlights Potential for Agritourism in Pennsylvania
Winery tours, corn mazes, and farm-stay vacations are just some of the agritourism activities that more and more tourists are enjoying during their vacations in Pennsylvania.

Agritourism, which includes most any activity conducted on a working farm for the enjoyment of visitors that generates income for the owner, is growing nationwide and in Pennsylvania. Its potential benefits, and costs, for the state and its rural areas, however, remain unclear. From the perspective of agricultural operators, agritourism may provide a means to expand existing operations, diversify or supplement income, or acquire new skills. From the perspective of Pennsylvania’s rural communities, agritourism may be a vehicle to land preservation, local revitalization, and job creation.

Agritourism, however, may also increase costs to rural communities in the form of excessive demands on rural regions, increased costs of living for local people, and environmental damage to rural landscapes.

To learn more about the potential opportunities and consequences of this growing industry for Pennsylvania’s rural areas and the tourism and agricultural industries, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania sponsored research in 2004 on agritourism. Dr. Susan Ryan and a team of researchers from California University of Pennsylvania conducted the research.

Research scope
The research was structured in three phases: Pennsylvania’s agritourism past; Pennsylvania’s agritourism present; and Pennsylvania’s agritourism future.

The findings from the past and present were compared to develop recommendations for a successful agritourism future.

The researchers surveyed agritourism operators, farmers, tourist promotion agencies and agritourists to understand the types of activities being offered and enjoyed. They also developed policy considerations on how the industry may benefit from various policies, programs and funding.

Approximately 90 percent of all of those surveyed said that agritourism was an economic growth opportunity for Pennsylvania’s rural regions. However, some respondents also indicated that agritourism has the potential to generate positive and negative impacts for sites, regions, and the commonwealth.

According to the research, all tourism development must be researched, planned, and managed within the context of the possibilities of these impacts.

While the study did not include a full tourism impact analysis, it compiled some potential concerns and benefits perceived about agritourism by farmers. Farmers noted challenges and opportunities to agritourism development, and also cited some economic, environmental and socio-cultural consequences that may result from tourism development.

Overall results
The researchers offered the following suggestions to improve agritourism in Pennsylvania.

More information
For a copy of the research results, Agritourism in Pennsylvania: An Industry Assessment, call or email the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or info@ruralpa.org or visit the Center’s website at www.ruralpa.org.

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PA House, Senate Introduce Legislation to Define Rural
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate have introduced identical legislation that would codify the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s definition of rural counties, municipalities, and school districts for use in future laws, programs, and studies of state government.

House Bill 2347 and Senate Bill 1083, both calling for the enactment of the Rural Definition Act, require commonwealth agencies to use the Center’s rural definition when conducting any study, assessment or evaluation of conditions, funding or programs affecting the state’s rural areas and population.

Representative Sheila Miller, former chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, and Representative Mike Hanna, Center board member, are prime sponsors of HB 2347. Senator John Gordner, chairman of the Center, and Senator John Wozniak, Center board member, are prime sponsors of SB 1083.

Background of legislation
Currently, there is no standard state definition of rural for policies, programs, or research. A review of current statutes revealed that when “rural” is cited in Pennsylvania legislation, the definition referenced has been one used or promoted by a federal agency. There are challenges for Pennsylvania in relying on federal definitions. First and foremost, the federal government does not truly define rural. Rather, it defines an area from a metro or urban perspective and the remaining areas are classified as non-metro. While this gives the federal government the needed flexibility to target programs and services from a national perspective, it also can overlook the differences in rural areas nationwide: what’s rural in Wyoming is not what’s rural in Pennsylvania. The needs of Pennsylvania’s rural communities, home to 3.4 million residents, present challenges and opportunities that are unique from other rural states.

Defining Rural
In 2003, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors adopted a definition of rural to guide its legislative mandate of research and database development. This definition identifies rural counties, school districts, and municipalities using population density, or the number of persons per square land mile. Using the statewide population density of 274 persons per square mile as the basis, the Center developed the following definitions:

County and School District Definition: A county or school district is rural when its population density is less than the statewide density of 274 persons per square mile.

Municipal Definition: A municipality is rural when its population density is less than the statewide density of 274 persons per square mile or the municipality’s total population is less than 2,500 unless more than 50 percent of the population lives in an urbanized area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Impact on state government
Initially, the adoption of a rural definition will have little or no impact on state government. Except for the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, which uses the Center’s rural definition for programming and data reporting, and the Pennsylvania Rural Development Council, which adopted the Center’s definition, the Center is not aware of any state program that applies rural/urban criteria for making funding or program decisions.

However, the legislation stipulates that federal definitions dictating existing programs and funding streams for the commonwealth will take precedence over the Pennsylvania specific rural definition. If passed, the Rural Definition Act will be used to govern federal programs that permit the use of a state rural definition for funding or programming and for future state policies and programs.

Over time, it is likely that state agencies will begin using the definition to target their outreach efforts to complete needs analyses. The state, local governments and other organizations may then use the information to develop policies and programs.

A single definition should reduce confusion and provide more uniformity among agencies, especially in terms of data collection and analysis, as to what is rural.

In addition, a single, Pennsylvania-specific definition will assist state agencies in measuring their effectiveness in delivering goods and services to the state’s 3.4 million rural residents.

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Chairman’s Message
Pennsylvania is well known internationally for its great cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Rural Pennsylvania, however, which is home to 3.4 million residents and covers 44,820 square miles, is quite diverse and much less known and understood. Rural Pennsylvania is the Grand Canyon of Potter County and the fruit orchards in Adams County. It is the almost 6,000 residents of Cameron County and the 451 residents of Dawson Borough, Fayette County.

A uniform rural definition is a practical tool for the legislative and executive branches of government to create public policy and implement resulting programs that are fair and equitable for all residents of Pennsylvania. It was that intent which led to the introduction of legislation in both chambers of the General Assembly to establish a common rural definition.

In January 2006, Senate Bill 1083 and House Bill 2347, which are identical, were introduced with sponsorship from the legislative members of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors. As a prime sponsor of SB 1083, I can tell you that the bill was introduced with specific ideas of what the adoption of a rural definition will and, very importantly, will not do.

A single definition can result in a consistent method by which state agencies can view and work with rural communities. Currently, many state agencies rely on a wide variety of definitions, many created at the federal level, for an equally wide variety of purposes.

A single definition also would help state agencies measure the effectiveness of the delivery of programs and services to rural areas. Geographic isolation and population density will always be factors affecting rural Pennsylvania. From home health aid services for elderly shut-ins, to generating the required cash match for public funding, these two factors affect access to and availability of government programs.

SB1083 and HB 2347 do not provide for preferential funding or program treatment of rural Pennsylvania, they simply define the area. The bills will not directly impact funding decisions. It will not result in taking programs or funding away from any area of the state. Some state agencies that rely on federal funding may not be able to use the definition and some state agencies that administer formula-based programs, such as the Community Development Block Grants, may find the definition irrelevant. So in effect, the bill will only apply to new programs and research.

In the short term, a statewide rural definition will probably have little impact on rural communities. However, by consistent application of the definition, state government will be better able to review the impact of their policies and programs for rural residents and communities and determine how to best direct state resources to maximize the return on investment.

Other states, including New York and North Carolina, have adopted rural definitions for policy and programming purposes. For Pennsylvania, this definition is a good step in the right direction. If you would like a copy of either bill, contact the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at the address and phone number listed at left.

Senator John Gordner

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Survey Reveals Differences, Similarities Between Rural and Urban Small-Town Police Departments
Small-town police departments in rural counties have smaller budgets and staff than small-town departments in urban counties, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania in 2005. The survey also found that most rural small-town departments operate with a mix of full- and part-time officers and have had relatively little staff turnover within the last two years.

PA police departments
In 2003, there were 1,124 municipal police departments in Pennsylvania, according to the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services (GCLGS). These departments provide policing services to 53 percent of the state’s municipalities, or 80 percent of the state’s population. The remaining 47 percent of the state’s municipalities, or 20 percent of the state’s population, rely exclusively on the Pennsylvania State Police for law enforcement services

In Pennsylvania, municipalities may form their own police department; contract the services of a police department serving a neighboring municipality; or join with several other municipalities to form a regional police department. According to the GCLGS, 87 percent of the state’s 1,124 departments serve only their own municipality, 11 percent provide services through contract agreements, and less than 3 percent are regional.

A survey of police chiefs
In April 2005, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania mailed a six-page survey to all 634 police chiefs in municipalities with less than 10,000 residents. The Center surveyed these police chiefs to better understand the issues facing small-town departments. By the end of June, 331 surveys were returned, for a response rate of 52 percent.

The location of the police department in which the chief served was defined as either rural or urban, according to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s county definition.

The survey says

More on the survey
The complete survey results, A Survey of Small-Town Police Departments, are available by calling the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555, emailing info@ruralpa.org, or visiting the Center’s website at www.ruralpa.org.

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A Look at the Governor’s Spending Plan for 2006-2007
In February, Governor Edward Rendell presented his $25.4 billion General Fund spending plan for fiscal year 2006-2007 to the General Assembly. Below are some of the budget proposals that affect rural Pennsylvania.

For more information on the budget proposal, visit the state’s website at www.state.pa.us.

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Behind the Numbers: Poverty
Our Behind the Numbers series looks at a specific measure or indicator to provide a better understanding of what the data for the indicator mean, how data are used and where you can get them. While we answer just a few basic questions about the measure or indicator in the section below, we have a more detailed fact sheet available online at www.ruralpa.org. The fact sheet is also available by calling or emailing the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or info@ruralpa.org.

What is poverty?
The level of income below which people have insufficient resources to meet basic needs.

What does it measure?
Personal economic well-being.

What does it tells us?
That a person or family has a very low income.

What doesn’t it tell us?
Whether the person can live self-sufficiently with the income he/she receives.

How is the data collected?
Self-reported income is compared to either a federal poverty threshold or a guideline.

Where can I get it?
U.S. Census Bureau.

When to use it:

A poverty rate is useful to compare economic well-being across communities or over time.

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State, Rural Poverty Rates Increase
Poverty increased in Pennsylvania between 2000 and 2003, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The number of Pennsylvanians in poverty increased by nearly 144,000 over that period and the poverty rate increased from 9.5 percent to 10.6 percent, more than a one-percentage point increase.

Poverty in rural Pennsylvania did not grow as rapidly in this same period. However, since the rural rate was already higher, rural poverty remains higher than the statewide figure.

The poverty rate in rural Pennsylvania rose about half a percentage point from 10.3 to 10.9 percent, amounting to about 23,400 additional people in poverty from 2000 to 2003.

Seven counties saw decreases in poverty: Sullivan, Forest, Snyder, Union, Greene, Northumberland and Pike. Sullivan County’s new rate was more than one percentage point better.

On the other hand, about one third of Pennsylvania’s counties saw increases in poverty of at least one percentage point: Berks County saw a two percentage point increase.

The highest poverty rate in 2003, outside of Philadelphia (20.1 percent), was Fayette County, with a rate of 15.9 percent. The lowest rates, all under 6.0 percent, were in the three suburban Philadelphia counties of Bucks, Montgomery and Chester.

Children experience higher rates of poverty than the population as a whole. Childhood poverty in Pennsylvania rose from 13.1 percent in 2000 to 14.9 percent in 2003. In rural counties, the poverty rate rose more slowly but began and ended higher, climbing from 14.3 to 15.6 percent during that period. In Philadelphia and Fayette counties, the child poverty rate was more than 25 percent, while in the same three previously mentioned counties outside of Philadelphia, the rate was less than 7.0 percent.

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Own a Barn Built Before 1960? Participate in Historic Barn Inventory
Owners of Pennsylvania barns built before 1960 are encouraged to participate in a statewide inventory of historic barns, which is being conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is assisting the department and PHMC with the inventory.

Senate Resolution 190 and House Resolution 463, spearheaded by the legislative board members of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, call for the department and PHMC to inventory and catalogue historic barns in Pennsylvania and to report their joint findings to the General Assembly by November 30, 2006. The results of the inventory may then be used to promote Pennsylvania’s agriculture and tourism industries.

To assist the Department of Agriculture and PHMC with the inventory, the Center is asking owners of barns built before 1960 to contact the Center. In the coming months, the Center will send barn owners a survey to gather more information about the barn.

To participate in the survey, owners should send their name, address, and county of residence to the Center. Owners are also asked to name the style or architecture of the barn, if possible, and to indicate if the barn is currently being used for farming operations. Mail the information to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 200 North Third St., Suite 600, Harrisburg, PA 17101; call (717) 787-9555; or email info@ruralpa.org.

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Just the Facts: AdultBasic Enrollment
As of December 2005, more than 36,000 people were enrolled in the state’s adultBasic Health Care Program. Nearly 13,800 of the enrollees lived in rural Pennsylvania.

AdultBasic provides basic health care insurance to low-income adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who have incomes of less than 200 percent of the poverty level and have no other health care coverage.

Per capita, 6.9 rural residents out of every 1,000 were enrolled in the program, while 4.3 urban residents out of every 1,000 were enrolled. Potter County had the highest ratio of adultBasic enrollees, with 13.2 residents for every 1,000 residents enrolled. Lancaster, Montgomery, and York counties were tied for the lowest per capita ratio of 2.1 residents for every 1,000 residents.

Interest has continued to surpass the program’s carrying capacity, resulting in a waiting list. The waiting list is compiled on a first come, first served basis, and as enrollment becomes available, those on the waiting list have 30 days to confirm eligibility and enroll in the program.

Between the end of 2003 and the end of 2005, enrollment in rural areas decreased by 14 percent and in urban counties decreased by 21 percent. In contrast, the waiting list increased by 63 percent in rural counties and by 90 percent in urban counties. In December 2005, 38,000 rural residents were on the waiting list.

In February 2006, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department announced that it was offering coverage to 30,000 individuals on the waiting list. This offer, combined with offers to 20,000 individuals in October 2005 and 30,000 individuals in December 2005, would decrease the waiting list to approximately 61,000 individuals statewide.

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Did You Know . . .

Source: The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 2005 RuralPA-CPS.

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