Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the 2011-12 state budget with deep cuts to Cooperative Extension and agricultural research plus zero dollars for crop insurance assistance. On the "up side", conservation grant funding was doubled.
Dean Bruce McPheron of Penn State's College of Ag Sciences was braced for the news early this week, expecting a 19% reduction from last year's level. "It's a larger cut than we had hoped for, but much better than the 52% we were facing in the Governor's budget proposal," notes McPheron.
Even so, the funding cuts for Extension and ag research programs come to $10.5. That will result in eliminating nearly 200 of the 814 permanent jobs within Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. It will impact many people working for agriculture and will affect educational support services agriculture depends on.
While Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer supports the state's efforts to restore fiscal discipline, he says "The budget cuts in Cooperative Extension and ag research are excessive."
The budget also eliminated the state crop insurance incentive program. "Because the program was zeroed out, we also lose the ability to ask the federal government to match state funding," notes Shaffer.
But the good news is . . .
The 2011-12 budget doubles the Resource Enhancement and Protection Act of Pennsylvania program funding to $10 million. It also restores funding for the Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Excellence programs, including the Center for Dairy Excellence and Center for Farm Transitions. It also restores funding for PDA-driven agriculture research and for livestock and dairy shows.
REAP has been an extremely popular program, with more demand than funds. "REAP has helped farmers and businesses invest in agricultural conservation measures, such as forested stream buffers, fencing projects, barnyard improvements and no-till practices by providing state tax incentives as part of the cost-share program," confirms Shaffer.
For more on REAP, click on http://www.americanagriculturist.com/story.aspx/pennsylvania-reap-funding-opens-tomorrow-50280.