Gov. Corbett’s budget makes solid investment in agriculture

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(Updated 7/8/13 to include information from Pa. Senate and Penn State University.)

HARRISBURG, Pa.  — Governor Tom Corbett signed the 2013-14 state budget, increasing support for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and a 3.4 percent increase in funding for Penn State agricultural research and extension.

The governor’s original budget request in February had cut several key ag programs, but funds were restored by the General Assembly.

Among the agricultural line items restored or increased in the budget, according to state Sen. Elder Vogel, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, were: Agricultural Excellence, $600,000; Agricultural Research, $787,000; Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports, $196,000; Hardwoods Research and Promotion, $350,000; and, Food Marketing and Research, $494,000.

The Department of Agriculture budget:

  • Increases funding for the veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania at $28 million for veterinary activities, $261,000 for the school’s Center for Infectious Diseases, and $46 million for agricultural research and extension at Penn State;
  • Supports the state’s nation-leading farmland preservation program with $35 million;
  • Increases funding for the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center with $4 million;
  • Provides increased funding for the state-sponsored Keystone International Livestock Exposition, All-American Dairy Show and other youth livestock shows by nearly $45,000;
  • Sustains more than $10 million to continue tax credits for Resource Enhancement Protection Program (REAP), which rewards farmers for best environmental and management practices;
  • Strengthens funding for county fairs, at $3 million;
  • Ensures funding for the State Food Purchase Program at more than $17.4 million to help food insecure Pennsylvanians; and
  • Boosts funding for PA Preferred, the official brand of agriculture products grown or made in Pennsylvania, with $550,000.

Resource centers

Barbara Christ, interim dean of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, said funding in the budget will be used to establish three resource centers linking Penn State and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

A $300,000 appropriation to the Department of Agriculture will create centers to address concerns surrounding food safety, animal care and plant health.

The centers will be housed at Penn State and will involve personnel from both organizations in developing the research-based solutions to scientific, educational and regulatory challenges.

Guided by advisory boards, the centers will be a resource for industry, organizations, agencies, legislators, the public and the media, Christ said.

The budget provides a $1.5 million increase for Penn State’s agricultural research and extension, bringing the total to more than $46.2 million.

These appropriations account for nearly half of the College of Agricultural Sciences’ base funding, which supports the faculty, staff and infrastructure needed for the college to compete for research grants. These grants make up the lion’s share of the college’s annual research expenditures, which approach $100 million.

“Agriculture is the state’s leading economic driver with more than $67 billion in economic impact,” said Governor Corbett. “Farming provides jobs for Pennsylvanians and keeps dollars in local communities. This budget is an investment in agriculture, which is the cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s economy and future.”

One in seven jobs is related to agriculture and 97 percent of the more than 62,000 farms are family owned.

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