Pa. agriculture growth strengthened with nearly $52 million budget increase

(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding commended Governor Tom Wolf and the General Assembly for approving a state budget that supports and invests in Pennsylvania agriculture and families across the commonwealth on Wednesday.

I’m grateful to Governor Wolf for continuing to keep agriculture a priority. This budget, with a nearly 30% increase in agriculture funding since last year, demonstrates the critical role agriculture and the people who care for our food and our environment serve in our commonwealth. This budget is a testament to the tireless work of our department staff, our partners, and to everyone who works in Pennsylvania agriculture to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people and animals; protect our land, forests, water, and soil for the future; and power our $132.5 billion industry. Under the Wolf Administration, funding to agriculture has increased by nearly $90 million. It’s an illustration of the governor’s commitment to a resilient commonwealth with a rich foundation, rooted in agriculture.

Russell Redding, Agriculture Secretary

Gov. Wolf brought the first-ever Pennsylvania Farm Bill to fruition in 2019. This year’s budget fully funds the PA Farm Bill for the fourth time at $13.6 million, for a total investment of $54.4 million.

The PA Farm Bill is the first state farm bill in the nation; it’s a comprehensive set of programs that resulted from bipartisan action to grow a stronger, more resilient agriculture industry.

According to the release, improvements to the PA Farm Bill were approved as part of the state budget, through Gov. Wolf’s signing of Senate Bill 1236, to streamline the administration and function of the Very Small Meat and Poultry Processor Reimbursement Grant Program, as well as Ag and Youth, Farm to School, and Urban Ag Grant programs.

The PA Farm Bill provides support for the commonwealth’s leading agriculture industry in six categories:

  • $3.6 million to increase market opportunities
  • $3 million to protect agricultural infrastructure
  • $2.5 million to remove regulatory burdens
  • $2 million for resources for agricultural business development and succession planning
  • $1.5 million to create more processing capabilities
  • $1 million to strengthen the agriculture workforce

Gov. Wolf’s budget establishes the Clean Streams Fund with $220 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which includes:

  • $154 million for a new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP) to provide cost-share to farmers
  • $22 million for the existing Nutrient Management Fund which supports technical assistance for nutrient management planning and implementation

The release states that increased funding will help the department build upon current conservation efforts, including Pennsylvania’s long-standing partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Conservation Districts.

In response to the department’s work to combat highly pathogenic avian influenza in the commonwealth, $31 million was prioritized to help impacted poultry producers and industry recover.

Additional support for agricultural preparedness and response provides $6 million, an increase of $4 million, for the animal diagnostic laboratory system laboratories at Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine to protect our farms and food system.

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