Like a bombshell that falls on a city’s buildings, the one that is falling on Penn State’s Extension Services is just as destructive in its way as the one destroying buildings. Jobs will be lost, services ruined and/or done away with, and cultures, namely agriculture and horticulture, will suffer irreparable damage.
“After vetoing two previous budget proposals last year,” explained PA Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert, “the Governor decided to line-item veto the Legislature’s third proposal, in order to disperse some public funds to keep public schools and human services functioning. As a result of the line-item veto, funding for PSU Cooperative Extension and Research, along with other agricultural priorities, have been zeroed out of the existing state spending plan that was supposed to run from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. Ebert continued, “[The] announcement by Penn State President Eric Barron that our land grant university might be forced to shutter the doors of Extension offices in all 67 counties, shouldn’t really surprise us. Eight months into the fiscal year, the Commonwealth has not made a single payment to Penn State Extension, for the multitude of service they provide to ensure food safety and enhance plant and animal health.”
A flood of concern from agriculture and horticulture practitioners has come in from all quarters, as sampled below.
‘Losing FREC [Fruit Research & Extension Center] would destroy the working synergy that has provided the backbone of the success of our industry across generations. Further, shutting down FREC as a result of dramatic budget cuts would also completely invalidate our substantial investment in Graduate Housing for that facility. And losing the Cooperative Extension Service would cripple the primary vehicle that sustains the sharing of the information to Agricultural groups.’ ~ State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania
One of the unique things about 4-H is that it doesn’t involve just boys or just girls, but the entire family. It is common to see the parents deeply committed to the 4-H program as well as their children. Youth have the opportunity to select the projects that interest them and learn both science skills and life skills from the experience. Kids learn effective communication, financial management, leadership, teamwork, self-motivation and the ability to work independently. These are all skills that employers are seeking in potential employees. ~ Jim Kahler, Delaware County 4-H alumnus, USDA as the National Program Leader, STEM/Agricultural Science & Technology at the 4-H National Headquarters
I think if anyone asked me, ‘What is the single most important or influential thing that affected your business over the years?’, aside from my wife, it would absolutely be Extension. That has come in the form of education, research, helping my client base to understand things, and raising my credibility when I talk to my clients and they in turn talk to Extension.
~ Al Cherry, President of Al Cherry Tree Service, ISA Certified Arborist
Past President, International Society of Arboriculture Past President of Penn Del Chapter of ISA
Registered Member, American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA)
Ebert continued, “Over the past eight months, I’ve been engaged in many conversations with lawmakers and cabinet officials about this issue. And it seems to me that all sides – Republicans and Democrats, legislators and members of the administration – agree that Penn State Extension plays a vitally important and necessary role in protecting the safety of food, plants, animals and humans in our state.
It’s also evident to me that all sides in this multi-lateral negotiation believe the cost of Penn State Extension – little more than one-tenth of one percent of the entire state budget – is well worth the state’s investment.
Farm Bureau does acknowledge the previous actions by the legislature to include funding for Penn State Extension in budget legislation, but unfortunately, there is nothing yet to celebrate. No reason to applaud.
As most of us in agriculture know, Penn State began as the “Farmers’ High School,” and its charge was to apply scientific principles to farming. For 160 years, Penn State kept that promise to agriculture and has served as the Commonwealth’s Land Grant University. Today, Penn State is seen as a national leader in agricultural research and Extension.
But, if the Legislative and Executive branches of our state government are unable to come together – soon – to solve the budget crisis for Penn State Extension and Research, Pennsylvania may very well become the first state in the nation to lose our Land Grant University.
I don’t use these words lightly. Without state funding for Extension, which is used to attract twice as much funding from federal sources, not only is Penn State Extension at risk of closing its doors, but also the entire College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State faces a bleak future.”