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PA Proposal Supports Agriculture

Published: February 10, 2016 1:30 pm ET

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On Tuesday, February 9, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a budget proposal that looks to invest in the State’s agriculture industry.

A release from the governor’s office states that the proposal helps consumer and animal health, protects against foreign animal diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza, expands research and outreach opportunities, and modernizes the state Department of Agriculture’s operations.

The contents of the release appear below.

Governor Wolf’s Budget Proposal Outlines Path to Brighter Future for PA Agriculture

Proposal continues support for HPAI response, research and diagnostic work, and other important partners

Governor Tom Wolf yesterday outlined two paths for Pennsylvania’s future: one that invests in critically important areas for the long-term health of the commonwealth or one that ignores reality and continues to underfund education and public health and safety, while also leading to property tax increases and devastating cuts in needed services.

The governor laid out a plan for the 2016-17 fiscal year that makes a number of key investments in the state’s agriculture industry. The proposal helps consumer and animal health, protects against foreign animal diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza, expands research and outreach opportunities, and modernizes the state Department of Agriculture’s operations.

At the same time, the governor’s budget invests in other state agencies that have a role in assisting Pennsylvania’s agricultural and rural communities.

“The governor said it during his budget address: we have reached a crisis point,” said state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “This is a challenging time for the state. Pennsylvanians cannot afford the failed status quo, which means property taxes will continue to increase, critical services will continue to be cut, and the state will continue to go without the resources. We need to ensure the public’s health and safety and work to strengthen our economy.

“The consequences of whichever path we choose to take are no clearer than with the agriculture industry,” continued Secretary Redding. “If we stick with the status quo, the state will be unable to support animal health research and diagnostic work in our world-class laboratories. It will be unable to provide additional support to institutions like Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

The governor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2016-17 builds on the administration’s work over the past year to protect against looming threats like highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI. In July 2015, Governor Wolf identified $3.5 million that he subsequently dedicated for HPAI planning and response. This restricted funding has been critical, allowing the Department of Agriculture’s planning and preparedness work to continue uninterrupted and providing the resources the department needs to mount a swift response should the disease be identified within the state. The 2016-17 budget proposal builds on those resources by providing an additional $3.5 million specifically for avian influenza response.

The budget proposal also includes level funding for the state’s Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System, or PADLS, which is a three-lab system supported by the commonwealth. The labs, operated by the department of Agriculture, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and Penn State University, are on the front line of animal health protection in Pennsylvania, conducting cutting edge research and diagnostic testing.

Additionally, Governor Wolf’s proposal also provides an increase for Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, which supports the university’s cooperative extension service. With funding for this work unfinished in the current fiscal year, the governor’s proposal of nearly $51 million represents a more than 10 per cent increase, or $4.7 million, above what was available in fiscal year 2014-15.

To help the state Department of Agriculture operate more efficiently, the budget unveiled today proposes an additional $2 million to deploy mobile technology, providing inspectors with computer hardware equipped with cellular capabilities to be able to communicate more effectively in the field – rather than having to drive to the nearest regional office to connect with the system. The rollout of this technology is an important part of the department’s GO-TIME initiative and is expected to save taxpayers $11.4 million once fully implemented

Looking beyond the department’s budget, Secretary Redding said the governor’s proposal again requests strategic investments in other agencies that will benefit agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and those looking for sustainable careers in the industry. In particular, he pointed to the following:

  • An $11 million increase to the PA First program under the Department of Community and Economic Development. The program is a comprehensive funding tool used to spur private capital investment, create jobs, and develop critical infrastructure and workforce training programs. The $45 million proposed for PA First would create at least 11,000 jobs, retain 40,000 jobs, and leverage $1.9 billion in private sector investment.

  • A $5.8 million increase for the first-of-its-kind Industry Partnerships Program in the Department of Labor and Industry. The program enables companies in the same industry group or cluster to identify their common skill needs and develop training programs to meet those needs. With the governor’s proposed $11.6 million appropriation, the program will enable workers to earn industry-recognized credentials and move up into better jobs. In 2015, Industry Partnerships held more than 2,800 trainings.

The budget proposal also acknowledges the commonwealth’s work in accordance with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law in July 2014, which seeks to align workforce development programs strategically and match employers with qualified skilled workers. Two of the goals of the state’s WIOA plan is to make job training more responsive to employers’ needs by engaging with industry-driven workforce partnerships and to have 60 per cent of Pennsylvania’s workforce equipped with a college degree or industry-recognized certification by 2025, making them, and industry, more competitive.

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