Funding for Penn State agricultural research and extension programs in 2012-13 may remain at 2011-12 levels. At least that's the plan according to Governor Tom Corbett's proposed state budget.
"Considering the current economic realities in Pennsylvania, this is excellent news," says Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. However, it won't prevent the down-sizing of staff and retirements that must be finished by July 1.
"With revenues continuing to lag behind estimates, the governor once again had to make some very difficult fiscal decisions," adds McPheron. "We are pleased and grateful that he recognized the importance of our work, which is critical to the continued economic vitality of the state's food and fiber sectors and to the long-term well-being of our communities and citizens."
The state appropriation for ag research and extension – $44.7 million in the current fiscal year – accounts for about half of the base operating funds for the College of Agricultural Sciences. The college also receives support from federal and county governments as part of Penn State's mission as the state's sole Land Grant university.
Where the money goes
Those funds support research and extension programs in areas such as food safety, water quality, animal and plant disease, Marcellus Shale issues, crop and livestock production, human health and nutrition, youth development and bioenergy. No tuition dollars are used to support ag research and Extension.
Base funding for the college also comes from the state's general appropriation to Penn State in support of undergraduate education. The college – which offers 19 majors – has seen its enrollment rise nearly 50% since 2005. But it would bear its share of the governor's proposed 30% cut in that allocation.
During last year's budget negotiations, the college's agricultural research and Extension line items were moved out of the Penn State appropriations bill and placed in the Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund under the state Department of Agriculture's budget. Use of this fund is restricted to the "Commonwealth's Land Grant university for agricultural research programs and agricultural extension services."
In the 2011-12 budget, that fund received revenues from the state's general fund. The governor's proposed spending plan for 2012-13, however, calls for the appropriation to, instead, come from the Race Horse Development Fund.
McPheron says that the change wouldn't impact the use of the funds. But the university is assessing the implications of this proposed shift in revenue sources.
The governor's proposal is the first step in the state budget process. "We view the governor's budget as a positive starting point," notes the ag college dean. "We will continue to work closely with the administration and the General Assembly to communicate the value that the state receives for its investment in ag research and Extension."
For more on how the College of Agricultural Sciences has spent its appropriated dollars and has responded to budget pressures, go online to: http://psu.ag/z0a2tH.