Penn State announced today that ten jobs and dozens of additional positions are being eliminated at the university’s College of Agricultural Sciences due to budget shortfalls.  

The job cuts will impact the Agricultural Sciences College’s ability to continue to provide high-priority programs that focus on issues related to food production and security, human and animal health, and environmental quality and conservation, which are part of the university’s Cooperative Extension outreach.

The college’s base funding for agricultural research and Cooperative Extension comes from federal, state, and county appropriations; 93 percent of funding is invested in people.  According to a Penn State press release, the Pennsylvania state budget for 2010-2011 will not include an increase in funding for agricultural research and extension, which has not received an increase in appropriations since the 2007-2008 fiscal year.  

Without an increase in funding from the state, rising operating and pension-related costs will create a budget shortfall of $11 million as of July 1, 2011, requiring a 20 percent reduction in agricultural research and extension programs in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

According to the press release, programs have already been reduced or eliminated to prevent further funding shortfalls, and without additional resources, the college’s Extension office may not be able to provide training or research-based information to growers who will soon have to comply with new regulations mandating “good agricultural practices,” or GAPs, to reduce foodborne pathogens at the farm, processing, and retail levels.

Of the funding woes, Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, noted, “unlike Penn State’s undergraduate education programs, these programs do not receive tuition dollars.”  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides funding to land grant institutions–like Penn State–so the university Cooperative Extension offices can provide educational outreach.  The Institute’s Website lists improving agricultural productivity, creating new products, protecting animal and plant health, promoting sound human nutrition and health, strengthening children, youth, and families, and revitalizing rural American communities as its priorities.  

“We must continue to invest in innovation and education through the land-grant university system if we are to ensure that the citizens of Pennsylvania continue to have access to a diverse, safe and affordable food supply,” he said.