Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Causer Leads Charge to Restore Funding for Ag Programs

HARRISBURG – Fighting for the state’s top industry, Rep. Martin Causer (represents Potter, McKean) will soon introduce legislation to restore funding to several of the state’s most vital agriculture programs.
The funding was eliminated by Gov. Tom Wolf when he line-item vetoed more than $6 billion from the 2015-16 state budget adopted by the General Assembly in December of last year.
“Agriculture employs thousands of Pennsylvanians, feeds millions and is a major driver of our economy,” said Causer, who serves as chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “That the governor would choose to eliminate programs that market our products around the world and help protect farming operations from devastating disease outbreaks like avian influenza defies all logic and good sense.”
Causer will introduce three bills to address the governor’s cuts to things like Penn State’s agriculture extension and agriculture research programs, hardwoods development and several items funded through the state’s Race Horse Development Fund.
When the governor cut more than $50 million in funding to Penn State, he eliminated $2 million specifically designated to help the Commonwealth prepare for and respond to the potential outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which is a serious threat to the poultry industry.
“HPAI was detected in nearly two dozen states last year, mostly in the upper Midwest,” Causer said. “The disease is getting closer to Pennsylvania and was recently identified in Indiana. Now is NOT the time to cut funding vital to this preparedness effort.”
The veto of Penn State’s funding is also threatening the school’s extension programs, which play a vital role in supporting farmers by helping them with a variety of regulatory and legal issues. This is especially important as the Wolf administration sets its sites on agriculture in its renewed effort to meet strict federal clean water standards.
“Extension specialists can help farmers develop and implement the kind of best management practices needed to reduce nutrient runoff, and they are instrumental in the effort to document existing conservation practices on our farms,” Causer added.
Recognizing the importance of the state’s forestry industry, Causer is also sponsoring legislation to restore $350,000 in funding for the Hardwoods Development Council. The council plays a key role in research and promotion to support the ongoing development and expansion of the forest products industry.
Finally, the third measure would allow for the transfer of more than $25 million from the Race Horse Development Fund to support the State Racing Fund, the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission, Pennsylvania Veterinary Lab, Agricultural Fairs and the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show.
“Pennsylvania is home to more than 59,000 farms, 97 percent of which are family owned. One in seven jobs in the Commonwealth is related to agriculture, and the industry has an estimated economic impact of $75 billion annually,” Causer said. “Clearly, an investment in PA agriculture offers a great return.

“When our agriculture industry is performing at its peak, everyone in Pennsylvania wins,” he added.

Causer expects to introduce the bills next week.