The proposed 2015-2016 budget for the state of Pennsylvania includes a $50.5 million cut to state agriculture funding, which would force the closure of county extension offices and eliminate the state 4-H program.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf line-item vetoed the Land Scrip Fund within the state budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, denying $50 million in funding to Penn State University for main campus and extension agriculture programs. Penn State, as the exclusive funding source for these programs, would be forced to close all extension offices and programs, including agriculture education services as well as youth 4-H. Not only would these agriculture services be denied state funding, but by extension would not be able to receive federal and county match funds.
Extension programs do vary somewhat by state, but generally these programs, through the sponsoring land-grant college or university, conduct research, disseminate critical agriculture information and educate farmers, animal owners, small business owners and youth. At the county level, extension offices offer seminars and workshops to educate the public, varying from topics such as beekeeping and berry production to pasture management and equine disease outbreaks. Extension services are a vital source of new information, especially to horse owners.
The youth agricultural education offered through 4-H are also funded through state extension, so a loss of funding in Pennsylvania would eliminate this valuable program. 4-H provides programming for everything ranging from dairy to goats to equine, as well as forestry and environmental awareness. (I got my equestrian start in 4-H; fellow club members have gone to compete on the A-circuit and become professional trainers.)
Hope is not completely extinguished yet for Pennsylvania’s agriculture programs — a horseman’s rally is scheduled for March 9 at the Capitol building in Harrisburg to demonstrate to Governor Wolf that agriculture funding is a vital part of the greater community. An online petition, at time of writing, needs just under 4,000 signatures to reach its goal of 15,000 supporters (click here if you’d like to read and sign.)
While horse owners and equestrians may not immediately consider themselves part of the agriculture industry, a cut to agriculture education funding hurts professional and amateur horsemen as much as the full-time or part-time farmer. The implications for the future of agriculture funding and services will look bleaker if this state budget is adopted including the veto of the Land Scrip Fund.
Support your agriculture extension programs, for the good of horsemen all over the country. Go riding!