Mindy Fee photo

State Rep. Mindy Fee

On Dec. 29, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the 2015-16 state budget, a balanced $30.3 billion spending plan sent to him via a bipartisan Senate vote. This 12-month budget increased spending by more than $1 billion over the previous budget, fully funding the state’s agriculture programs and increasing K-12 school funding by a historic $405 million.

But when Wolf signed the budget, he used the authority of the governor’s office to cut $6.3 billion from it, including nearly every agriculture program and the cash prizes owed to contest winners at the recent Pennsylvania Farm Show. Many of these winners are children who proudly displayed everything from their needlework to food products to animals to square-dancing ability.

This is Wolf’s brazen attempt to hold the prize winners as pawns in his little game of attrition to force unnecessary tax hikes on the middle class — plain and simple. The total amount of these awards is so small in the scope of a state budget that it is very petty of the governor to withhold them.

The children work very hard all year, caring for and training their animals to be their best in the statewide contest. The hard work starts before the sun comes up and continues late into the night, after they get home from school and finish their homework. The children are literally the farmers of tomorrow who will feed our nation.

One of them is 9-year-old Emma Oberholtzer, of East Earl, who, as LNP reported, won big alongside her father when they showed both the champion horned Dorset ram and ewe. Emma’s Cheviot ewe lamb placed third in the youth division, and she was named outstanding young shepherd in her age group.

But there will be no cash prizes for Emma — not even the $30 and $50 most kids win at the Farm Show. Tom Wolf made sure of that.

Denying the cash prizes is only the most visible damage Wolf has done to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry with his budget cuts.

He also zeroed out funding for fighting avian flu right at the time infected birds are migrating from Canada and mingling with North American flocks. This is especially dangerous here in Lancaster County, home to 30 percent of Pennsylvania's chickens and supplier of eggs and poultry to much of the northeastern U.S.

Our delegation has been warning farmers and the public since early last year that avian flu could reach us this fall and winter, as infected geese migrate south over our state and country. Now, the highly pathogenic H7N8 avian influenza has hit a commercial turkey flock in Indiana. What kind of governor plays deadly games with a nation’s food supply?

The Lancaster County Republican Delegation to the General Assembly calls on the governor to reverse course on his decision to cut our agriculture programs.

Sadly, Wolf is the only governor in recent memory to not mention agriculture a single time in his first budget address. Agriculture is the state’s No.1 industry and Lancaster County’s leading economic driver.

We hope Wolf reconsiders his latest political maneuver.

 Lead author Rep. Mindy Fee, R-37th District, is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. This was co-signed by state Sens. Ryan Aument (36th District) and Lloyd Smucker (13th District), plus Reps. Bryan Cutler (100th District), Keith Greiner (43rd District) Dave Hickernell (98th District), Steve Mentzer (97th District), Brett Miller (41st District) and Dave Zimmerman (99th District).