Penn State University officials report that the university is eliminating 10 jobs specific to agriculture, and dozens of additional associated positions. The reason relates to budget shortfalls in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences as state appropriations continue to lag rising costs.

Bruce McPheron, dean of the Penn State’s agricultural college, reports that the cuts represent a multiyear effort to minimize costs amid eroding state support for agricultural research and the Cooperative Extension Service.

Like many Land-grant university’s Penn State’s agricultural college receives a significant portion of its funding from federal, state and county appropriations. McPheron reports that 93 percent of that funding is invested in people. However, Pennsylvania’s budget for 2010/2011 will again exclude a funding increase for agricultural research and Extension funding. That funding allotment has remained flat since the 2007/2008 fiscal year.

Penn State administrators say that without increased support, rising operating and pension-related costs will create a budget shortfall of $11 million as of July 1, 2011. This will require a 20 percent reduction in agricultural research and Extension programs in the 2011/2012 fiscal year. That possibly would require the elimination of an additional 160 positions in the college.

"Unlike Penn State's undergraduate education programs, these programs do not receive tuition dollars," McPheron notes.

Land-grant universities such as Penn State receive funding from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture   to pay for educational outreach. However, NIFA has already made cuts in the program, specifically removing the discipline of food science and its counterparts in other agricultural sciences, prompting serious concerns in the meat industry. This is a questionable and bothersome trend, especially as agriculture and food production as criticism and scrutiny of the U.S. food system is on the rise.

Source: Penn State University,