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Pennsylvania 4-H Programs in Jeopardy of Being Eliminated

TUNKHANNOCK — It has been more than eight months without a state budget and money is running thin for organizations throughout the state. According to Pen...

TUNKHANNOCK -- It has been more than eight months without a state budget and money is running thin for organizations throughout the state.

According to Penn State University president Eric Barron, the university is facing financial struggles due to the ongoing budget battle in Harrisburg.

The university president said that the budget stalement on the university's Agricultural Research and Extension programs may result in job cuts.

Barron said 1,100 positions could be lost statewide.

According to Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, 67 county extension offices could also close. That includes eliminating extension noncredit educational programming.

Additionally, if the funding delays continue for the 2015-2016 state budget, 4-H and master gardener programs could be eliminated.

Pennsylvania 4-H has more than 90,000 children that participate in the program. Along with the kids that participate, there are more than 6,600 adult and teenage volunteer leaders.

The line-item veto by Governor Tom Wolf was in an effort to ensure a balance budget.

According to the governor's press secretary, the governor supports the agricultural programs here in Pennsylvania.

"Governor Wolf supports funding for these important agriculture programs and he is ready to sign the bi-partisan, compromise budget that was balanced, fixed the deficit and made historic investments in education as well as agriculture programs. Unfortunately, Republican leaders sent the governor an irresponsible budget that was unbalanced by $500 million, would have grown the already multi-billion dollar deficit and made a $95 million cut to education. The governor used his line-item veto power to ensure the budget was balanced and because Republican leaders did not provide revenue to pay for their budget. The governor looks forward to working with Republican leaders to pass a real, bi-partisan budget that includes the revenue necessary to fix the deficit, invest in education and fund important areas like agriculture programs."

The line-item veto to the Land Scrip Fund means a loss of $50.5 million.

For members of 4-H in Wyoming County they fear if lawmakers don't work together, their club can be eliminated.

"It has evolved into citizenship, leadership and science programs that have offered a lot more," Penn State extension educator Joe Stanco said.

High school senior Rachel Phinney has been a part of 4-H for 10 years. She can't imagine younger kids missing out on a life-changing opportunity.

"They are going to be the future leaders. They are going to be the ones who will contribute most to society. They're the ones that are really going to learn from this," Phinney said.

Tunkhannock Area High School counselor Eliza Comley see's first hand the positive impacts 4-H has on kids.

"Everything you would want in a young person to have 4-H engenders that and our students who participate they exemplify that," Comley said.

Other 4-H volunteers say it instills life skills.

"The maple syrup project for example is going out and tapping those maple trees and getting to see exactly where the maple syrup comes from that they're putting on their pancakes," Amanda Ruark said.

Stacey Peterson's family raises goats at their farm near Tunkhannock. She believes eliminating 4-H would mean less money for family and local businesses.

She's hoping the governor and lawmakers have a change at heart and realize this program is important.

"These kids will get experiences that they will use everyday and will translate into things they will do everyday for the rest of their lives," Peterson said.

If you would like to sign the petition to help restore funding to help programs like Pennsylvania 4-H visit this website.

The Wyoming County 4-H also plans to attend a rally in Harrisburg on March 9 at 1:40 p.m. in regarding the potential elimination of the program.