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 State Budget issues affect Ag programs across the state of PA

(3/10) The Adams County Penn State Cooperative Extension office faces impending closure due to lack of funding by the State. In fact, all Extension offices across the state of Pennsylvania face the same outcome if funding is not approved.

Contention and disagreement between the State legislature and the Governor is resulting in a lack of funding to vital agricultural related programs including Penn State Extension, Animal Health Commission and diagnostic laboratories. Specifically, funding for the Land Scrip Fund contained within the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture budget, needs to be restored. These programs have been zeroed out of the existing state spending plan for 2015-16 and are remaining unfunded as a result of the lack of a full budget agreement between the legislature and the Governor.

After fully vetoing two previous budget proposals with no tax increase, the Governor decided to perform a line-item veto of the legislature's third proposal in order to allow some public funds to be dispersed to keep public schools and human services functioning.

Within Penn State Extension there are a variety of agricultural related programs that serve the community such as the Master Gardeners, 4H Youth Development, Community and Economic Development, Nutrition and Health, tree fruit and vegetable education and research. These programs and their corresponding research have provided farmers with the most advanced variety of scientific and technological knowledge and farming techniques, and continue to be a major contributor in improvement of both production efficiency and environmental quality on farms. Research stations, such as the Fruit Research and Extension Center in upper Adams County, which are responsible for invaluable research to the fruit industry, also face the danger of being shut down.

Critical issues such as Avian Influenza, Food Safety Modernization Act Implementation and assessing agricultural BMPs in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will all go dormant within the State as a result of Extension programs being shut down. The University of Pennsylvania’ s School of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University are currently facing the same outcome due to lack of funding.

Animal Health Commission and the diagnostic laboratories are critical as the industry faces the likelihood of a high parthenogenetic Avian Influenza outbreak. They are needed in order to be fully prepared to diagnose and contain the disease as well as detect and respond to potential threats to animal health and food safety and improve animal health control measures on farms.

Pennsylvania State Representatives Dan Moul and Will Talman are well aware of the public’s unhappiness with the current state of the budget. Moul stated that "he would do everything he could to help restore the invaluable cuts to our agricultural industry and help restore faith in our Pennsylvania state government." Both Moul and Tallman voted to support legislation that would have funded the state-related schools.

If the budget is not passed and funding is not restored to the universities’ agricultural programs, Pennsylvania will be known as the first state in the nation to abandon its land grant mission which has been 150 years in the making. In addition, 1,100 Extension jobs will be lost, 90,000 youth will lose access to leadership development, 92,340 members and 9,556 volunteers for 4H and the Master Gardener programs will be eliminated, and 67 Extension offices will close, eliminating vital programs and services for consumers and farmers.

If you want to be a part of making a difference and wish to help in some way, contact your local county commissioners and state representatives. Write a letter, sign the petition to restore funding to Penn State Extension, send an email or call your representatives.

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." Robert F. Kennedy

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