Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf approved the state’s next budget June 30.
The final budget includes funding for many agricultural programs that Wolf zeroed out in his initial proposed budget earlier this year, but some were disappointed not to see more funding for broadband expansion and conservation.
“While we are pleased that this budget maintains funding for many programs that support Pennsylvania agriculture, now is not the time to settle for the status quo,” said Rick Ebert, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, in a June 29 statement.
Some Democratic legislators said they were disappointed not to see more support for broadband expansion in the budget, but intend to continue pushing for better access in the state. Broadband advocates in the state criticized Wolf earlier this year for not including more funding dedicated to broadband in his budget proposal.
“Farmers need broadband access to take advantage of the latest technology to help us farm smarter, more efficiently and with a smaller environmental footprint,” Ebert said. “In addition, greater public investment is needed to share in the cost of farm conservation efforts, especially in high-priority areas like the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”
Pennsylvania has a goal of reducing nitrogen by 34 million pounds per year, phosphorus by 0.7 million pounds per year and sediment by 531 million pounds per year in the Chesapeake Bay, by 2025.
The plan for meeting that goal includes more on farm conservation work in the state. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau believes farmers need more technical support, and more help covering the costs of implementing conservation practices, to hit that target.
The budget boosts the State Food Purchase Program and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System by $2 million and $1 million, respectively. That totals about $20 million for the purchase program and $2.5 million for the surplus system.
Sheila Christopher, executive director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, said that funding will help food banks meet demand, in a June 28 statement.
“In normal times, far too many Pennsylvanians are challenged by hunger, but COVID-19 has made this struggle measurably worse for residents in need and those who try to help them,” Christopher said.
The state made two changes to tax policy that will benefit farmers, the farm bureau said. One allows farmers to defer income from crop insurance payments on state income taxes for a year. The other makes sales tax exemptions on all terrain vehicles for farm chores more clear.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will get a 5% funding boost to its general government operations. The budget also includes $4 million in payments for Pennsylvania fairs.
The final budget offers funding for several agricultural programs that Wolf initially did not include in his proposed budget, announced in February. These include agricultural research, ag promotion, livestock and dairy shows, hardwoods research and promotion, food marketing and research, the animal health and diagnostic commission and livestock and consumer health protection.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!