Editorial: Budget cuts could end livestock 4-H club

Arnie.021816

I’ll never forget my first day at the Manatawna-Saul 4-H farm located on Spring Lane in Roxborough. It was a balmy Saturday morning in July and Scott Moser, the 4-H leader, invited us to come check out 4-H. (My youngest daughter, who was 6 at the time, insisted on wearing her flip-flops to the farm.)

I had never even heard of 4-H until I met Moser, who brought farm animals to a Christmas program at the First Baptist Church of Germantown.

Sarah, who was 7 years old at the time, fell in love with the calf and lamb the club brought. Despite the freezing temperatures, I could not persuade Sarah to come inside and make a gingerbread house or do anything else.

From that moment on, Sarah, who was always tenacious, even as a toddler, talked about nothing but joining the Manatawna-Saul 4-H club, so she could raise a pig or a lamb.

Thankfully, she was only 7 years old. I had a few months to figure out what 4-H was and learn the difference between a gilt and a barrow.

As a kid growing up in the suburbs, my only exposure to farm animals was at the Philadelphia Zoo’s petting zoo.

It was complete culture shock for me. I remember seeing the older teenagers using the blowers to dry and style a 1,200-pound beef cow’s coat and watching as Mrs. Sohler, another 4-H leader, showed my girls the proper way to give a sheep a shot. But mostly I remember the poop. It was everywhere. Since then, I have watched my timid and curious girls grow into fierce young women.

My youngest daughter Caroline recently showed “Hurricane,” her calf, and “Stormy,” a 1,200-pound heifer at the 2016 Pennsylvania Farm Show. Trust me – you don’t know what teamwork is until your partner is a 1,200-pound beef steer.

Unfortunately, Governor Wolf recently cut ALL funding for Agriculture 4-H programs in Act 10A (House Bill 1460). Wolf’s original budget would have allocated $50.5 million to the Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund, funds that are directed to Penn State University, Pennsylvania’s sole grant land institution.

The Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund provides funding for agricultural research, agricultural promotion, agricultural education and livestock shows and open dairy shows, such as the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Ironically, agriculture is one of Pennsylvania’s largest industries. Pennsylvania is ranked fifth in total milk production in the nation. This year the state celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

However, funds from The Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund don’t just support 4-H programming; they also provide funding for invasive species management, habitat conservation, water quality, urban forestry and community green space.

According to the Wolf administration, the budget without the line-item vetoes in House Bill 1460 would have created a deficit in the General Fund of more than $500 million.

While I agree that we cannot continue to increase the state’s spending deficit, we CANNOT afford to cut funding to programs that support youth and an economy based largely on agriculture.

I want to encourage readers to contact the Governor and their legislators to restore funding to the Land Scrip Fund by passing SB1120, which would restore the Land Scrip Fund to $50,549,000.

For more information about recent budget cuts go to:

http://www.pahouse.com/Files/Documents/Appropriations/series/2866/Summary_Act10A_LineItemVetoes_020116.pdf

– Sue Ann Rybak