For Immediate Release: March 7, 2012
Proposed Budget Cuts Cast Cloud Over Agriculture Week
(HARRISBURG, PA) The Renew Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations in the Commonwealth, today said that proposed budget cuts to conservation funding are casting a cloud over Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Week.
“The Governor is encouraging all citizens to pay tribute to our farmers, but at the same time his administration recommends the future elimination of funding for farmland preservation, which helps support our agriculture industry,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Coalition. “We urge the legislature to restore funding for this and other conservation programs, otherwise these cuts will chip away at the cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s economy until it crumbles.”
Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s leading industry, generating $5.7 billion in cash receipts and an estimated $57 billion in economic impact. One in seven jobs are related to the state’s agriculture industry.
While Governor Corbett has declared this week as Agriculture Week, the proposed budget diverts the state’s cigarette sales tax from its historical purpose of funding farmland preservation to funding the general fund. This is a permanent diversion that will eventually kill this critical program. The proposed budget also recommends:
- Diverting $30 million from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund to the general fund, and permanently eliminating this popular and important conservation and recreation program. This is the largest cut in conservation funding in state history.
- Continuing the flawed practice of using the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay the Growing Greener II bond debt service. This $37.5 million debt diversion will leave just $23 million – the lowest level in the history of the program – available for Growing Greener programs and projects, including farmland preservation.
“These recommendations undermine any progress made in the Marcellus Shale legislation, Act 13, to renew the nearly bankrupt Growing Greener program,” said Heath, “and is not a green light for gutting other existing conservation, recreation and environmental funding.”
Together, these conservation programs have supported thousands of park and trail projects throughout the Commonwealth, preserved thousands of acres of family farmland, conserved thousands of acres of threatened open space and protected hundreds of miles of streams and waterways. In addition, they have contributed and leveraged billions of dollars to the Pennsylvania economy by helping to boost tourism, create jobs and generate revenue.
About the Renew Growing Greener Coalition The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations in the Commonwealth, representing nearly 350 organizations and government entities from across the state. More than 140 government entities, including 36 counties, representing more than seven million Pennsylvanians, have passed resolutions calling for a dedicated source of funding for the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund. For more information on the Coalition, visit www.RenewGrowingGreener.org.