Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Proposed increases to farming-related programs are prompting warm and fuzzy feelings at the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, but the agriculture lobby is also keeping an eye on proposals to zero out certain funds.
Gov. Corbett is proposing a three percent increase, or $1.5 million more for Penn State-administered programs supporting farmers, and a nine percent hike, or roughly $2 more, in spending for general operations under the Department of Agriculture.
"That helps support jobs within the Department of Agriculture and services that are not only beneficial to farmers, but the entire agricultural industry here in Pennsylvania," said Mark O'Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. "And with increased costs within the building to maintain employee salaries and keep services up, an increase was needed there."
But the praise came with a hedge: "Obviously that's kind of the starting point," O'Neill said of the proposal. The administration's outline also cancels funding for several programs within the Department of Agriculture - including ones for agency-administered agricultural research ($787,000) and centers supporting the beef and dairy industries ($600,00).
Samantha Krepps, spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, said the beef and dairy programs also get non-state funding. She noted that the general operations budget increase would support the inspections at "the core" of what the agency does.
O'Neill said the agricultural research and industry-support programs typically get slashed early on in the budgeting process, only to be restored eventually by lawmakers, adding, "it's not something that makes us panic."
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