Governor Tom Wolf’s expected to visit Lock Haven University Wednesday to tout his college tuition plan prompted Pennsylvanians to speak out about the negative impact his plan–which would divert money from Pennsylvania agriculture–would have on jobs and the agricultural industry. Supporters of Pennsylvania agriculture argue Wolf’s plan for funding the new initiative would result in the end of horse breeding and racing, put more than 20,000 state residents out of work and it would jeopardize hundreds of thousands of acres of open space, thereby eliminating an industry that has a $1.6 billion economic impact each year.
“You don’t rob hard working families to give money away to those who have not earned it,” said local resident Randy Brungard, whose family owns the 360-acre Brungard Farm in Howard, PA, Centre County. “The Governor’s proposal would bankrupt family-owned farms and leave as many as 20,000 hard-working individuals and their families without jobs,” said Brungard. “People don’t understand how big an impact this would have on our state’s economy, or what it will do to countless Pennsylvania families, farms, and small businesses.”
“When a horse wins a race, they earn purse money for their owner, which the owner then uses to pay the horse’s jockey, trainer, blacksmith, groom, veterinarian, and equine dentist, as well as buy hay and straw from farmers, feed from local feed mills, and supplies and equipment from small businesses,” said Brungard. “They reinvest that money in new barns and fencing on their farms that are constructed by local carpenters, and purchase horse trailers, tractors and farm equipment that are sold here in Pennsylvania. The economic impact is tremendous and far reaching.”
According to Pete Peterson, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition, in 2017, legislature was passed (Act 47) outlining the money in the RHDTF “are not funds of the Commonwealth” and that “the Commonwealth is not rightfully entitled” to the funds.
“Yes, college tuition is spiraling out of control and college debt is a major concern,” said Peterson. “But you don’t fix one debt problem by creating another debt problem and putting 20,000 people out of work and bankrupting businesses and farms. If this is a priority for the Governor, he needs to find another source of funding, because his current plan would be a disaster for Pennsylvania agriculture, farms, and small businesses.”