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Phew! PA budget battle is over; ag wins - for nowPhew! PA budget battle is over; ag wins - for now

Budget impasse passes as Pa. Governor Wolf promises to not veto stop-gap funding for Extension and ag programs. Rally drove home ag's importance.

John Vogel

March 27, 2016

3 Min Read

After the recent massive capitol rally of agriculture and hundreds of youths taking a day off from school to peacefully demonstrate, the message sank in to Pennsylvania legislators and Governor Tom Wolf: “Keep agriculture funded!”


And last week, Governor Wolf announced he wouldn’t veto stop-gap 2015-16 funding legislation to keep Penn State Extension, research and other ag programs operating. That means the Penn State College of Ag Sciences budget numbers stand at $50.5 million, a 9.3% increase, fully funding Penn State Extension and ag research programs. And the Penn State University appropriation stands at $224.8 million, a 5% increase.
Also included was $1.5 million for Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s ag research line item, $1.1 million for Ag Excellence programs, $5.35 million for the Animal Health Commission and $5.3 million for the veterinary lab system, plus $177,000 for livestock shows and county fairs. Pennsylvania fairs also will receive $4 million through the newly established Racehorse Development Fund. Another $250,000 was designated for ag exports.

“The influx of state money will save vital agriculture research and extension programs administered by Penn State University, which are so critical to farmers, the public and the state’s economy,” noted Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert. “It saves more than 1,100 jobs at Penn State and ensures that Pennsylvania doesn’t become the first state in the nation to achieve the dubious honor of losing its land grant university (status).”

Budget battle far from over

But Governor Wolf warned: “This budget doesn’t work. The math doesn’t work, and that’s a real problem.

“We need to keep our commonwealth working. We need to make sure our schools are funded. We need to make sure our agricultural Extension services get the money they need. We need to make sure our local and county governments get the state support they need to keep doing what we want them to do.”

Then he repeated: “This budget is not in balance. It has the kind of problems that have plagued past budgets.”

He pointed out that the 2015-16 fiscal stop-gap legislation underfunds medical assistance payments and corrections. It doesn’t restore funding for reimbursing schools for construction projects already undertaken. “It only adds to the $2-billion deficit looming in July.”

Then he warned that counties will have necessary monies through this fiscal year and schools will stay open through the end of this year. “But unless Harrisburg changes its ways, they won’t have adequate funds for next year.”

“Next fiscal year – that already has a $2 billion deficit – will now begin with an extra $300 million deficit. Ratings agencies and the Independent Fiscal Office have all agreed that we face a massive structural deficit.

“Left unaddressed, the deficit will force cuts to schools and human services, devastating credit downgrades that will cost taxpayers millions, and increase property taxes for our senior citizens. We must face this reality this year and balance our budget with real, sustainable revenues.”

So the budget battle now moves on to 2016-17.

For more on the capitol rally, see 4-Hers lobby for Penn State Extension.

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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