When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced his $23.5 billion state budget just before Christmas, it contained zero dollars for Pennsylvania’s Center for Dairy Excellence (CDE). The Commonwealth has been operating without a budget since July 1.
CDE, which has been funded 50/50 from public/private sources to provide business, expansion and transition planning for the state’s 7,300 dairy farmers, announced this week it is being forced to cut back both staff and programming, says John Frey, CDE executive director.
“Among the suspended programs is the grant funding we offered for transition, succession, transformation and profitability planning,” he says.
CDE had not received any state funding since last July, and has been operating on private money funded through the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation. Those funds, however, were not sufficient to continue current levels of programming.
Half of the 11-person CDE staff has been suspended or furloughed, and programming for on-farm profit initiatives, dairy expansions and planning teams to help with dairy transitions have all been suspended. Also in jeopardy is the state’s retail milk branding effort, “Pennsylvania Preferred,” although there is hope some of those efforts could be continued through the state’s dairy checkoff program.
Through the efforts of Pennsylvania dairy farmers and CDE, Pennsylvania’s milk production has grown to almost 10.9 billion lb., up nearly a billion lb. from 12 years ago when CDE was formed. In that time, milk cows in the state have dropped some 30,000 head, but milk per cow has grown nearly 2,500 lb. Total milk production is up more than 7% as a result.
Frey says work will continue to strengthen the CDE Foundation to provide funding for programming. “Dairy contributes an estimated $7 billion in economic revenue to the state, with 7,300 dairy farmers supporting local communities across the Commonwealth,” he says. “We look forward to developing a sustainable model to lead the future of our industry, engaging dairy industry leaders and key stakeholders as we move forward on this path.”