HARRISBURG – Citing agriculture’s key role in Pennsylvania’s economy and the need to adequately prepare for a potential outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and other threats, Senator Elder Vogel (R-47) and his colleagues Ryan Aument (R-36), Gene Yaw (R-23) Dave Argall (R-29) and Lloyd Smucker (R-13) are preparing legislation to restore vital funding for agriculture-related items vetoed from the state budget by Governor Tom Wolf.
Senator Vogel, a dairy farmer from Beaver County who also serves as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said the supplemental appropriations measure they plan to introduce would provide approximately $62 million in funding for important agricultural programs and services that were defunded by the Governor.
“Many important agricultural programs and services were completely defunded by the Governor,” Senator Vogel said. “These included research and development efforts and county cooperative extension services that many farmers use on a regular basis. These cuts also strike at Pennsylvania’s ability to adequate prepare against an HPAI outbreak.”
“We cannot allow the important work of combating animal health diseases, such as Avian Influenza, to be victim to politics,” said Senator Aument. “These programs must be funded to protect Pennsylvania’s food supply, the agricultural operations that provide those goods and services, and Pennsylvania’s overall economy, which is heavily dependent upon a strong agricultural sector.”
“I still cannot believe the governor zeroed out these agriculture programs in their entirety,” Senator Yaw said. “As Pennsylvanians, we take great pride in our agriculture heritage. The exciting growth and development of this industry is a true testament to our history, which supports thousands of jobs, small businesses, and families across our state. It’s important that we all play a role in promoting and enhancing this industry, and that most definitely should include our Governor, as well.”
Last month, Governor Wolf slashed nearly $100 million for agriculture when he line-item vetoed House Bill 1460, legislation that would have fully-funded state government operations for Fiscal Year 2015-16. The line items vetoed by the Governor included vital funding that would prepare the state to meet the challenges of HPAI.
A commercial turkey flock in southwestern Indiana was recently diagnosed with HPAI, the first confirmed case of 2016.
“Benjamin Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Senator Argall. “Unfortunately, the Governor’s latest budget veto could leave the state paying millions if we are hit hard with the Avian Flu. In the case of our valuable food supply, it’s best to be proactive than reactive. After witnessing the outbreak of the Avian Flu in the Midwest last year, we need to have every resource available to combat this crippling disease.”
“When biosecurity issues such as the Avian Influenza strike, Pennsylvania must be prepared to respond and recover,” Senator Smucker said. “Without the resources to prevent and respond to a potential agricultural or public health emergency, an isolated flu outbreak can escalate. Budget impasse or not, Pennsylvania must be in a position to act and adapt quickly in order to protect our poultry flocks, farmers and families.”
The legislation provides supplemental funding for the following items:
Transfer to Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund Restricted Account ($50,549,000): This fund supports Penn State in the area of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. It also supports the Cooperative Extension network of 123 educator agents who work in county offices across the state.
Animal Health & Diagnostic Commission ($5,350,000): The Commission is responsible for the detection, identification, containment and eradication of livestock and poultry diseases. Disease control programs for diseases such as brucellosis, avian influenza, rabies and chronic wasting disease seek to reduce significant economic loss to producers and prevent transmission of zoonotic organisms from animals to humans.
Pennsylvania Veterinary Lab ($5,309,000): The laboratory provides animal health services for producers’ domestic animals with emphasis on infectious, nutritional and toxic diseases. State-of-the-art testing methods help diagnose common diseases and provide surveillance to detect emerging diseases.
Agriculture Research ($1,587,000): This supports three Pennsylvania Agriculture Resource Centers — the Food Safety Center, the Animal Care Center, and the Plant Health Center. Funding will also be directed to the University of Pennsylvania for avian influenza research.