Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021-2022 state budget proposal would largely maintain funding for key agriculture programs, setting a good starting point for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau to advocate for greater investment in agriculture.
The spending plan would maintain existing funding levels for several key programs, including Penn State University’s agricultural research and Cooperative Extension services and University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s food safety and animal welfare programs. The Department of Agriculture’s General Government Operations, which provides funding for jobs and services that support Pennsylvania agriculture, would receive a $1.3 million—or 4 percent—boost. Meanwhile, funding would be cut from some programs.
“We are pleased that the governor’s budget proposal recognizes the importance of supporting Pennsylvania’s number one industry by maintaining funding for several key agriculture programs,” PFB President Rick Ebert said. “We believe this plan will serve as a good starting point as we advocate for more investments to help farm families innovate to grow their businesses and rural Pennsylvania’s economy. The COVID-19 pandemic piqued the public’s interest in buying local food and underscored the critical role that farmers play in ensuring that our commonwealth has an abundant and accessible food supply. We will continue to highlight opportunities for Pennsylvania to benefit by restoring proposed funding cuts and moving beyond the status quo to invest more in farmers’ success.”
The plan also calls for increasing funding for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, which assists with getting excess food from Pennsylvania farms and food processors into the charitable food system. The program was boosted last year by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding and proved instrumental in helping both farmers and families in need during the pandemic.
The governor’s plan would zero out funding for several agriculture line items, including programs related to agricultural research; agricultural promotion, education, and exports; hardwoods research and promotion; livestock and consumer health protection; animal health and diagnostics; and food marketing and research. PFB plans to work with members of the General Assembly to restore funding in those areas.