HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) today joined colleagues from the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees of the House of Representatives and Senate to discuss the impact that Governor Wolf’s line-item vetoes of agriculture services and programs are having on Pennsylvania farmers and allied agriculture industries.
“It’s shameful that we even have to have a discussion about not funding agriculture,” said Sen. Aument, who noted that Lancaster County’s and Pennsylvania’s economy is driven by the agriculture industry. “Since Governor Wolf vetoed 65 percent of the Department of Agriculture’s budget, I have not stopped fielding calls from concerned students, individuals and businesses,” said Sen. Aument.
On December 23, 2015, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1460, a General Appropriations Act that provided $151.5 million in funding to the Department of Agriculture’s programs and services for the 2015-16 fiscal year. On December 27, 2015, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 1460 into law, but exercised his line-item veto authority to reduce the department’s funding to $52.9 million.
The Governor fully eliminated funding for the following line items: agricultural excellence, agricultural research, agricultural promotion, education and exports, hardwood research and promotion, livestock show, open dairy show, youth shows, the transfer to the Agricultural College Land Script Fund, the animal health and diagnostic commission, the Pennsylvania veterinary lab, payments to Pennsylvania fairs, and funding for veterinary activities and the center for infectious disease provided by the University of Pennsylvania.
“I cannot understand why these critical programs and services were victim to the Governor’s veto pen,” said Sen. Aument. “At no time during the 2015 budget impasse were there ever any disagreements over funding agriculture, so these devastating cuts make no sense at all.”
Testifying at the public hearing today were Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, Nicholas Jones and Dr. Richard Roush from Penn State University, Dr. Vincent Prince and Dr. Joan Hendricks from the University of Pennsylvania, Karoline Kent, former President of the Pennsylvania 4-H, Joel Rotz of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and a representative from the PennAg Industries Association.
“I applaud these testifiers who came to speak up for agriculture and all that it means to Lancaster County and Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Aument. “They are right – we need to fully fund these essential programs and services. I am particularly troubled by the needless elimination of monies for the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Lab and the University of Pennsylvania.”
Sen. Aument noted that the $50.5 million appropriation for the Transfer to the Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund that was zeroed out by Governor Wolf has pushed Pennsylvania’s agriculture extension services to the brink of closure.
“I have to question whether Governor Wolf understands how important this funding is to agriculture extension services, which are now on the verge of shutting down,” said Sen. Aument. “Just this week it was reported in Lancaster Newspapers that the local Penn State Extension office, a 100-year old educational agency that serves farmers, 4-H clubs and the public will close if these monies are not restored.”
During the hearing, Sen. Aument highlighted the concerns he has received from people all across the 36th Senatorial District by reading a letter written by a concerned student who participates in FFA school programs and who is a member of the local 4-H club.
“I have heard from countless constituents who question the priorities of Governor Wolf’s administration,” said Sen. Aument. “I think the young people who have reached out to me on this issue have a better grasp on the reality of this situation than some of the professionals making decisions in our state government.”
Sen. Aument is a co-prime sponsor of Senate Bill 1120, a supplemental appropriations bill that would restore many of the funding cuts made to the Department of Agriculture. “I stand ready to vote and vote again to support our agriculture industry,” said Sen. Aument. “I will not allow this important component to our economy and way of life to be victimized by a political fight that has nothing to do with agriculture programs and services.”
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz, (717) 787-4420