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Idaho ag department budget up slightly

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture will have $287,000 more to work with in fiscal year 2015, a modest 0.8 percent increase over the 2014 budget.

BOISE — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s fiscal year 2015 budget will increase slightly compared with 2014, even with a dip in federal funding.

Idaho lawmakers, by a combined 101-2 vote, agreed to grant the department $36.1 million in spending authority, an increase of 0.8 percent.

The department’s share of general fund monies increased 2.9 percent to $7.79 million, while its dedicated funding is set at $22.52 million, a 2.8 percent increase over fiscal 2014.

But federal funding is down 8.5 percent, or $539,000, to $5.8 million. That’s mainly due to an end to some grants related to stimulus funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Together, the department, which oversees 50 programs that touch almost every aspect of agriculture in Idaho, will have $287,000 more to work with during fiscal 2015.

“Where we show a modest increase in general fund money and dedicated funding, we counter with a reduction in federal funding,” said ISDA Chief Financial Officer Kelly Nielsen.

The budget includes an additional $30,000 to increase the department’s marketing efforts in Southeast Asia. The Idaho Department of Commerce will also put in $30,000 toward that same goal.

Any time the department has gone on a trade mission to Southeast Asia, “we have been very successful, so we’re increasing our investment in those areas,” Nielsen said.

ISDA Chief of Staff Pam Juker pointed out that Idaho agricultural exports to countries in that region have increased rapidly in recent years and exports are increasingly important to the state’s farming community.

“Over 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside of the United States and our agricultural exports are growing much faster than domestic consumption,” she said.

The budget, which caps the department’s number of authorized full-time positions at 190.5, also includes money for a 1 percent salary increase and a 1 percent one-time bonus for department employees. Both will be based on merit.

It includes $79,000 for an information technology programmer to update the financial transaction system of the ISDA’s animal division to allow people to make online payments to renew licenses and pay fees.

The rest of the department went that route last fall but the animal division’s payment system is antiquated and still uses mostly spreadsheets when it comes to financial transactions, Nielsen said.

An additional $80,000 has been appropriated to help support the ISDA dairy inspection fund’s milk testing program. The program, which was started two years ago, requires a lot of samples to be tested and analyzed and the department never asked for spending authority to pay all the program’s bills, Nielsen said.

The extra $80,000 “gives us enough room to be able to pay the bills,” he added.



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