Since 1855, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Penn State University have partnered to create one of the most notable agriculture institutions across the nation.
The University, on behalf of the Commonwealth, provides important research, teaching, and extension support in the animal, plant, food, engineering, environmental, social, and business management sciences. It runs the 4-H program, as well as the master gardeners program, which has a combined 92,000 members. It runs laboratories that ensure our food is safe, that our farmers have the most up-to-date research information, and that our forests are sustainable. In short, Penn State University is critical to our food and fiber sector here in Pennsylvania.
And now, in 2016, there is a distinct possibility that this 160 year partnership could soon end. This possibility exists because the governor wants to raise your taxes and doesn’t want to fund Penn State or its College of Agricultural Sciences until he gets his way. He is willing to hold the entire Commonwealth and our agriculture community hostage to achieve this goal.
Pennsylvania is close to becoming the only state in the nation that does not run an Agricultural Extension program. We might soon be the only state without 4-H, and we may soon be the only state without a state-supported College of Agricultural Sciences.
As the Chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, I understand just how devastating this would be to our state. On a daily basis, I have farmers, food processors, extension educators and youth leaders tell me stories of how important Penn State is to them and their efforts. Every year at the Farm Show, I see first-hand the impact of the College of Ag Sciences on our state’s most important industry. And each summer at Ag Progress Days I am reminded that Pennsylvania agriculture would suffer greatly without the myriad of services that Penn State provides to our Commonwealth.
The good news is that the General Assembly recognizes a good value, and in a bipartisan fashion crafted a state budget that increased funds for Penn State’s research and extension services by $4.3 million, with $2 million of that funding to be dedicated to address ongoing biosecurity issues, including avian influenza, in the Commonwealth. Now we have just a few months to restore the governor’s veto of this funding before irreparable harm comes to Ag research and extension. I hope you will join me in urging the Governor to finalize this crucial funding as soon as possible.