Let's pass a budget that doesn't undercut farms and food safety for your family
Trying to balance the budget by undercutting one of our state's most important industries and job producers is an irresponsible and shortsighted strategy
A budget bill passed by House Republicans on April 4 could make it much harder for Pennsylvania to keep the food you eat safe and help our state's farmers flourish.
Republicans passed the bill with zero input and zero votes from Democrats.
A bipartisan Pennsylvania budget would recognize the importance of family farms and agriculture to our state's economy, and the state's obligation to keep the food that is served in our kitchens, restaurants and school cafeterias safe and healthy.
The House Republican budget bill doesn't do any of that.
Pennsylvania must find ways to reduce its deficit, but the arbitrary cuts in House Bill 218 to things as fundamental to Pennsylvania as farm preservation and production, agriculture jobs and food safety make little sense.
The cuts in the Republican budget bill would restrict efforts to market Pennsylvania products through programs such as PA Preferred; jeopardize the state's farmland preservation program; and limit efforts to provide nutritious and healthy food to senior citizens and children through the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and State Food Purchase Program.
Republicans also choose in House Bill 218 to cut support for efforts to improve local water quality and provide important education and training programs for farmers and other food producers.
These programs boost farming, farm jobs and the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania while conserving and protecting the state's water and land.
The Republican cuts could also eliminate support for at least half of the 21 conservation districts in Pennsylvania that rely on state funds for staffing. County conservation districts provide assistance with everything from abandoned mine cleanup, land preservation and pollution control to forest management, stormwater management, waterway protection, West Nile surveillance and wildlife management.
Pennsylvania could backfill these lost funds with some of the limited impact fee revenue it gets from natural gas drilling, but this would mean less funding for counties where drilling is occurring.
Trying to balance the budget by undercutting one of our state's most important industries and job producers -- and by abandoning public safety and land and water preservation and protection -- is an irresponsible and shortsighted strategy.
Pennsylvania cannot continue to budget in a way that jeopardizes jobs for working people, prosperity for our farms and small businesses, financial security for families, and the future of our state's economy.
We need a new way forward with a budget that works for everyone, not just the big corporations and the wealthiest special interests.