More than 350 farmers from across Pennsylvania met with members of the state General Assembly to discuss priority issues affecting farm families, including the pressing need for pension reform to address an enormous unfunded liability, during the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's State Legislative Conference.
"If there is no action on pension reform, Pennsylvania families can expect to bear the burden of the unfunded liability through higher property taxes and reduced services," said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer. "Since farmers own large amounts of land as part of doing business, farmers will face an even larger economic burden if property taxes skyrocket to pay for the school pension system."
Pennsylvania's public pension systems reportedly have an unfunded liability of more than $45 billion, and that figure is expected to increase to $65 billion over the next five years if changes are not made to the system in a timely manner.
Farm bureau members also talked to lawmakers about the need to adequately fund key agricultural programs through the state budget, such as agriculture research and cooperative extension programs administered through Penn State University.
"Overall, we are seeking a 6 percent increase in funding for agriculture research and cooperative extension and a $2.5 million increase for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's general government operations in order to sustain the level of existing programs and services," added Shaffer. "We are also asking lawmakers to reinstate funding at current levels in other areas, including the various 'Ag Excellence' programs and agricultural research conducted by PDA."
PFB members are seeking an amendment to Pennsylvania's Oil and Gas Act to forbid gas well companies from assessing production cost deductions that would drop royalty payments under 12.5 percent. "Many Pennsylvania farmers who have gas wells on their properties are upset because they are not receiving the state-mandated rate of 12.5 percent in royalties for gas extraction due to drastic deductions taken by gas well companies, which are claiming the deductions for costs associated with the capture and transmission of gas from the wells. This is unfair and violates the spirit and intent of the original state law guaranteeing landowners a 12.5 percent royalty rate," concluded Shaffer.