Governor’s Budget Will Help Grow a New Pennsylvania

3/2/2013 7:00 AM

As Pennsylvanians, we’re blessed with a wealth of natural resources. We live in the Keystone State, positioned in an ideal location to reach more than 60 percent of the nation’s population within a day’s drive.

Most of all, we have job opportunities and Pennsylvanians are the hardest-working people in the world. Pennsylvania has unlimited potential.

Over the past two years, Gov. Tom Corbett has worked to make Pennsylvania an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

Through fiscal restraint and responsibility, he eliminated a $4.2 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. He worked with government leaders to bring spending under control and reduced taxes, putting more money into the pockets of taxpayers and small business owners.

His bold approach put Pennsylvania on solid financial footing for the future — a future with agriculture at its core.

Just as agriculture is the foundation of our future, families are the heart of agriculture. Every time a plow cuts into the soil, it deepens the roots of agriculture as a family tradition. We must keep it this way.

Corbett eliminated the inheritance tax on family farmland last year. The value of land for housing and commercial centers is very high, but the value of tradition and the contributions of agriculture are beyond calculation.

No farming family should have to bury their father or mother and their way of life at the same time.

Nor should we lose our farmland to uncontrolled development. That is why Corbett’s proposed 2013-14 budget contains more than $35 million to fund the nation’s best farmland preservation program.

The governor’s proposed budget also:

Maintains funding for the Veterinary School at the University of Pennsylvania at $27.8 million for veterinary activities, $248,000 for the school’s Center for Infectious Diseases and $44.7 million for agricultural research and Extension at Penn State.

Ensures critical funding for the State Food Purchase Program at $17 million to help Pennsylvanians who are at risk of not having enough food to eat.

Continues funding the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program, which provides $10 million in tax credits to producers who use best management practices that protect our waterways and farmland.

Increases funding to $2.5 million for county fairs, which attract more than 6 million visitors each year and showcase the best of local agriculture.

This month, I will present the governor’s proposed agriculture budget to the Senate and House appropriations committees. The hearings are an important opportunity to support the budget and share insight about the important work the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture does each day to protect human, animal and plant health.

Corbett’s budget holds steadfast to these vital duties to keep our consumers safe and our farmers farming. It is a budget that keeps Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry as a major source of economic growth and revitalization for our commonwealth.

It promotes profitable and viable farms, farmland and related agriculture industries; ensures a safe food supply from farm to fork; provides producer and consumer protection through licensing, inspections and laboratory analysis; and assists in the distribution of food to nutritionally at-risk Pennsylvanians.

In short, it is a budget that works for Pennsylvania agriculture.

We’re close to forever changing Pennsylvania for the better. Even in our hardest times, we knew our work ethic, our resources and our unique geography would bring us to better days.

It is our responsibility, now, to grow a new Pennsylvania.

George Greig is the Pennsylvania secretary of agriculture.

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