$911,000 funded employees who conducted workshops across the state
By STEVE BROWN
OLYMPIA -- Left on the cutting-room floor at the Washington Capitol was general fund support for the domestic marketing program at the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
Jason Kelly, public information officer at WSDA, said the program is designed to "support small farms to explore new marketing opportunities, from value-added to direct-marketing to schools to assisting farmers' markets. We help growers understand and navigate the maze of state regulations."
The biennial budget of $911,000 has covered workshops across the state, he said. The program employs seven people, several of whom work part time.
The department will look for federal grants to keep some of the work going, he said, but grants won't cover salaries.
WSDA Director Dan Newhouse said he argued for continued funding of the program.
"The program is highly dependent on those dollars for the salary and benefits of several employees," he said. "These talented people are truly passionate about supporting the vitality of agriculture in our state. Simply put, they do good work."
A pro-farm group protested the cut.
"Farmers across the state have benefited from the incredible accomplishments of the relentlessly hard-working folks who run its programs, and to see them help create the nation's best farm-to-school program and one of the strongest direct-market economies in the nation only to have it taken away while still on an upward trajectory is sad, short-sighted and ultimately poor fiscal policy," said Clayton Burrows, of Growing Washington, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable, local agriculture.