Congratulations to Cambria County 4-H on a century of getting young people involved in farm-related activities.
But what of the next 100 years? The next 10?
Even as Cambria County is celebrating its 4-H centennial in 2016, agricultural programs are caught in a budget tug-of-war in Harrisburg, where more than $50 million in funding was cut through Gov. Tom Wolf’s line-item veto in December.
Hundreds protested recently in Harrisburg, urging the state government to restore the funding for agricultural programs, including 4-H clubs and Penn State’s county cooperative extension offices.
The university said 92,000 children and adults are involved with activities connected with 4-H – which stands for head, heart, hands and health.
Marissa Matlin, a junior at Forest Hills High School, and Amanda Venesky, a sophomore at Cambria Heights High School, were among 40 individuals from Cambria, Somerset and Blair counties who attended the rally at the state Capitol.
Protesters warned the state government that research done at Penn State is crucial to farmers and their operations.
“We’re like a big family,” Matlin told reporter John Finnerty. “We want agriculture to survive, and we can’t do that without Penn State.”
Penn State is using 4-H as a tool as it attempts to save 1,100 jobs school leaders say will go away if funding is not restored by May 1.
Richard Roush, dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, said $80 million in federal money – connected with the university’s status as a land-grant institution – could also be in jeop-ardy if the university reduces its agricultural programs.
Wolf pledged to restore the funding for 4-H, if he and the legislature can agree on a balanced budget.
Pennsylvania is nearly nine months past the deadline for a 2015-16 budget, and is also faced with settling upon a spending plan for 2016-17.
Agriculture remains a key driver of Pennsylvania’s economy, and programs such as 4-H help develop the interest and skills in young people to carry on that tradition.
Cambria County’s 18 4-H clubs offer experience in a variety of topics such as sewing, cooking and shooting sports, in addition to traditional areas – including beef and dairy, swine, poultry and crop management.
More than 300 youth participate in Cambria 4-H programs, reporter Jocelyn Brumbaugh wrote, working with nearly 100 volunteer leaders.
Kids involved with 4-H “get opportunities they wouldn’t get otherwise,” said Ellie Bard, leader of the South Ebensburg Community 4-H Club.
Cambria 4-H officials are gathering historical information to show-case the first 100 years, and are holding several events in conjunction with the centennial celebration.
We applaud the many who volunteer their time, and the young people whose dedication personifies the 4-H experience.
State leaders should do everything they can to preserve these important programs.