Pa. farmers applaud Corbett preservation allocation, hope for more research funding

    The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is hoping additional funds are in the offing for agricultural research programs.

    The budget as proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett would mean a 3 percent boost in overall funding for the Department of Agriculture, due to special funds, although the governor wants to make a 10 percent cut to dollars earmarked for the agency in the state’s general fund.

    Mark O’Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said his group is pleased another $35 million could be headed toward a farmland preservation program.

    The fund allows the state to buy the development rights for plots in exchange for those lands remaining for agricultural use.

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    “In the long term, what it does is it makes sure that land remains in farming and that not only benefits farmers but commonwealth residents as well,” he said. “When you talk about what farmers require in terms of infrastructure and other services within a community, it’s very low per dollar compared to what putting in a new housing development does.”

    Corbett’s budget also includes another $500,000 for county fairs.

    But O’Neill said his group wants to see a 5 percent increase in funding for agricultural research programs administered by Penn State such as Cooperative Extension.

    “We hear about things like stink bugs, you may have heard we eradicated the plum pox virus here in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Well, certainly, there was a big role to play with research in that.”

    O’Neill says the governor has basically proposed flat-funding such research programs.

    But he fears Extension could shed people or services if it doesn’t receive more money. The programs were hit with a 19 percent funding cut two years ago.

    With outlets in each county, Penn State Extension offers practical how-to education and problem-solving assistance based on university research.

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