State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Budget battle forces agriculture programs to plan for layoffs

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 9, 2016 4:01 PM
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For agriculture programs in Pennsylvania, time is running out.

The dean of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences said Wednesday that 1,100 researchers and Extension employees will get pink slips in May if the school's roughly $50 million state appropriation doesn't materialize soon.

"We had to tell people what was going on or else we'd suffer the fate that we could just fall off the edge of the cliff," said Dean Rick Roush after a press conference at the Capitol. "I'm an incurable optimist about these things. I do have hope that we'll get there."

Governor Tom Wolf vetoed state agriculture funding, along with other items, late last year in an effort to bring budget negotiators back to the table. His line-item veto wiped out the $50.5 million Land Scrips fund supporting agricultural research and outreach programs like 4-H, as well as millions in matching dollars from federal and local governments.

Wolf's spokesman said Wednesday that the governor is still waiting for the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a complete budget, along with new revenues to support it. GOP lawmakers are talking about approving supplemental funding measures for agriculture programs and other vetoed items, but they're not saying how they would pay for the spending.

"There's a lot of negativity right now around this issue," said Brad Hollabaugh, an Adams County fruit-grower. He said he sees agricultural extension personnel as his "first-responders" when he needs information about the latest pest invasion.

"At least from the standpoint of the tree fruit industry, we implore the Legislature and the governor to get it together," added Hollabaugh, "and keep our rich programs in place."

Published in State House Sound Bites

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