HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 2121, the state’s budget bill, into law June 22. At $36.158 billion, the state budget is roughly a 2 percent increase over last year.
The major spending increase, which took effect July 1, is $100 million more for K-12 education and $70 million in new school safety funding.
Agriculture also fared well in negotiations, with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture receiving $31.791 million, an increase of nearly a million in funds from the current fiscal year.
The state spending plan includes increased funding for agriculture research and Cooperative Extension programs administered by Penn State University, $1.5 million; the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, $900,000; and the General Government Operations for the Department of Agriculture, $1 million.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau applauded members of the state General Assembly and Wolf for supporting a state budget that recognizes the importance of agriculture programs.
“Research and technical assistance provided by Penn State and Penn VET help farmers work more efficiently, identify issues such as pest and plant disease and take action to further improve the environment, while Pennsylvania consumers benefit with advances and monitoring of food safety protocols,” said Rick Ebert, president of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
The budget includes a new $3 million appropriation to help control the spread of the spotted lanternfly, which is an invasive insect that threatens crops, fruits and trees.
This will be used in conjunction with $17 million from the federal government to help identify and eradicate the spotted lanternfly.
The new budget provides a $500,000 increase in funding for agriculture research conducted by the Department of Agriculture and restores funding for agricultural excellence programs, food marketing and research, and agricultural promotion, education and exports.
The budget also increases the Commonwealth’s commitment to the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System by $500,000 to $1.5 million. PASS helps cover costs associated with harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting surplus food from Pennsylvania farms to charitable food systems.
“The additional funding will provide even more food to the needy, including products on food bank wish lists, such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, poultry, milk and other dairy products,” Ebert said.
In addition, $5 million in funding is being made available through the First Industries Fund, administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development, for dairy farmers to create value-added products or for farmers and dairy processors to use for market analysis.
“This funding could provide other options for dairy farmers to utilize the milk they produce and enhance efforts for farmers and processors to more effectively market their products to consumers,” Ebert said.
For the first time in Wolf’s tenure, he has signed a budget. And after three years of protracted negotiations, the election year plan is finished ahead of its June 30 deadline.