HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Many farmers rely on the research done through the Penn State Cooperative Extension to help them grow food more efficiently and fight off diseases and pests like stink bugs, which were a real threat to fruit farmers like Bruce Hollabaugh.
“Had we not had Penn State research and also extension to help disseminate the information that was discovered, we could have had losses that far exceeded those losses that we experienced anyway,” said Bruce Hollabaugh, co-owner Hollabaugh Brothers Fruit Farm & Market in Biglerville.
The extension has not received any funding this fiscal year. Governor Wolf line-item vetoed more than $50 million.
“This is 100 percent of the cut of the funding that would wipe out a key part of a partnership that’s lasted more than 150 years, so we think that draws attention,” said Richard Roush, dean of Penn State’s College of Agriculture Sciences.
The Farm Bureau says if the funding doesn’t come through, 67 extension offices will close and 1,100 employees will be laid off.
“I think [the extension] is a great resource here for the grower community, and if we lose it I don’t know what will happen,” said Sarah Bardsley Capasso, an extension employee. “It will be very devastating to both the science community and the grower community as well.”
One of the biggest concerns is if there is no research, how will farmers know how to fight any unforeseen pests or disease.
“New Zealand cut back on research capabilities and less than a year after it shut down, a virus came through and wiped out their shellfish industry,” Roush said. “They had no one on the ground to deal with it, so it has happened and it could happen, too.”
The Farm Bureau says if funding does not come through, layoffs will happen May 1.