Mark O’Neill, Media and Strategic Communications Director
510 S. 31st Street , Camp Hill, PA 17001 • 717.761.2740 • Email • @pfbmediaone
For Immediate Release: March 8, 2016
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(Biglerville) – Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) called on members of the state General Assembly and the Governor to take immediate action to avoid a shutdown of Penn State University’s Cooperative Extension and Agriculture Research programs, which are in jeopardy of being closed due to the state budget impasse. More than $50 million earmarked to fund extension and research programs for the current fiscal year was eliminated when Governor Wolf used a line-item veto late last year.
“Agriculture Research and Cooperative Extension employees provide vital services and technical assistance that help farmers manage risk, increase production, control pests and implement conservation practices. Penn State has informed us that more than 1,100 people will lose their jobs and research facilities will be closed unless funding is restored,” said PFB President Rick Ebert, during a news conference at Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center (FREC) in Biglerville. The Adams County facility, which is located at the epicenter of Pennsylvania’s Fruit Belt, could be shuttered without an infusion of state funding.
Farmers emphasize that they benefit from having strong working relationships with extension agents and researchers, who alert farmers to a variety of new opportunities and practices, while providing the agriculture community with timely information and recommendations to combat challenges faced by growers.
“Our family farm relies heavily on the Fruit Research and Extension Center. In one instance, a research project spearheaded by the Center significantly increased the production of apples on our farm by showing us how to transition our orchards from old tree systems to the next generation of growing through high density precision planting,” said Bruce Hollabaugh, a fruit grower and family co-owner of Hollabaugh Brothers Fruit Farm and Market in Biglerville. “A shutdown of FREC could have an immediate negative impact, while a long-term shutdown could threaten the viability of fruit growers and food safety.”
Penn State has extension offices in all 67 counties providing a wide variety of services, including leadership development for 90,000 youth involved in 4-H.
PSU also operates several research facilities across the state, including FREC. “This research station is the quintessential example of the value of our land-grant partnership," said Rick Roush, dean of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. "Linking industry, academia and government together to solve problems and advance the economy works. There are decades of ongoing research projects done here that have resulted in new knowledge, practices and solutions that help keep our food system safe and competitive. ”
Roush pointed out that every Pennsylvanian benefits from this work.
“Yet, due to the budget impasse, we have gone more than eight months with zero funding,” he said. “If legislative action is not taken by May 1, we will have to begin the process of dismantling our operations, including this center, impacting more than 1,100 jobs and all they do for Pennsylvania agriculture. There will be no winners in that scenario, as research shows that by eliminating our $50 million state appropriation, the economic loss to Pennsylvania -- based solely on operational spending -- is more than $260 million. ”
Farm Bureau notes that legislation already has been introduced in the state Senate (S.B. 1120) and House (H.B. 1831) to help resolve the funding crisis. Although the bills are not identical, each calls for adequate funding to be directed to Cooperative Extension and Research programs administered by Penn State.
“The clock is ticking on Penn State as a Land Grant University. Without swift action from lawmakers in Harrisburg, jobs will be lost, extension and research facilities will be closed and the future of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State will be in peril,” concluded Ebert.
Farm Bureau is asking all Pennsylvanians interested in preserving Penn State’s mission to state agriculture to visit www.pfb.com/actnow where a draft message is ready for them to send to their State Representative, State Senator and the Governor. We also encourage the public to show its support by using the hashtag: #SavePSUag.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization with a volunteer membership of nearly 61,400 farm and rural families, representing farms of every size and commodity across Pennsylvania.