By Chuck Gill, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK – Funding for Penn State agricultural research and extension programs would remain at 2011-12 levels under Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed state budget for 2012-13, unveiled Feb. 7.
“Considering the current economic realities in Pennsylvania, this is excellent news,” said Bruce McPheron, dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
“With revenues continuing to lag behind estimates, the governor once again had to make some very difficult fiscal decisions,” he said. “We are pleased and grateful that he recognized the importance of our work, which is critical to the continued economic vitality of the state’s food and fiber sectors and to the long-term well-being of our communities and citizens.”
The state appropriation for ag research and extension — $44.7 million in the current fiscal year — accounts for about half of the base operating funds for the College of Agricultural Sciences. The college also receives support from federal and county governments as part of Penn State’s mission as the state’s sole Land Grant university.
Those funds support research and extension programs in areas such as food safety, water quality, animal and plant disease, Marcellus Shale issues, crop and livestock production, human health and nutrition, youth development and bioenergy. No tuition dollars are used to support ag research and extension.
Base funding for the college also comes from the state’s general appropriation to Penn State in support of undergraduate education. The college — which offers 19 majors and has seen its enrollment rise nearly 50 percent since 2005 — would bear its share of the governor’s proposed 30 percent cut in that allocation (http://live.psu.edu/story/57644).
During last year’s budget negotiations, the college’s agricultural research and extension line items were moved out of the Penn State appropriations bill and placed in the Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund under the state Department of Agriculture’s budget. Use of this fund is restricted to the “Commonwealth’s Land Grant university for agricultural research programs and agricultural extension services.”
In the 2011-12 budget, the Land Scrip Fund received revenues from the state’s general fund. The governor’s proposed spending plan for 2012-13, however, calls for the appropriation to the Land Scrip Fund to be transferred instead from the Race Horse Development Fund.
McPheron explained that the change would not impact the use of the funds. But he said the University is assessing the implications of this proposed shift in revenue sources.
McPheron emphasized that the governor’s proposal is just the first step in the state budget process. “We view the governor’s budget as a positive starting point,” he said. “We will continue to work closely with the administration and the General Assembly to communicate the value that the state receives in return for its investment in ag research and extension.”
More information about how the College of Agricultural Sciences has spent its appropriated dollars and has responded to budget pressures is available at http://psu.ag/z0a2tH online.