Reform plan drafted to improve state's timber harvests
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The revised budget proposal that Gov. Jerry Brown submitted this week would cut an additional $2.5 million from the state Department of Food and Agriculture and make changes in timber harvest plans.
The proposal also envisions a tax on lumber that would support regulatory activities.
The reduction to CDFA would be in addition to the $31 million in general fund dollars already slashed from the coffers of the agency responsible for agricultural plant and animal health, pest prevention and food safety programs.
Previous cuts primarily affect programs relating to border control stations, pest prevention and food safety, the governor's office explained in its budget statement. The CDFA would still receive about $62.5 million from the general fund in fiscal 2012-2013.
The agency "will collaborate with its stakeholders to prioritize its resources in determining which programs will be reduced to achieve the additional $2.5 million savings," the budget proposal stated.
"We're working now to implement the change," CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle said. "Our general fund support is pretty much restricted to either animal health or the plant health division, so we're looking now at ... seeing what could be further reduced."
Lyle said no decisions have yet been made.
Brown also proposes what he characterizes as a reform package to improve timber harvest plans, which are submitted by professional foresters for logging on private land.
The governor proposes extending the timeframe for harvest plans to five years, with one two-year extension, rather than the current three-year plans with two extensions of one year each. The longer timeframe would apply to plans submitted this year.
"This timeframe will optimize the length and scope of standard timber harvest plans while retaining appropriate protective measures for fish and wildlife," the proposal stated.
In addition, a new lumber "assessment" would be applied to retail sales of certain wood products and would be collected by the Board of Equalization.
The assessment would provide long-term funding for the departments of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fish and Game and Conservation as well as the state Water Resources Control Board as it relates to timber harvest plan reviews, the governor's office explained.
The state would also look for ways to simplify the timber harvest review document as part of a goal "to shorten and streamline permit processing times" using existing resources, according to the budget proposal.
The ideas were unveiled May 14 as part of a $91 billion general fund budget plan. Brown proposed $8.3 billion in cuts across education, health care and welfare programs in laying out a plan to address the state's $15.7 billion shortfall.
He said more cuts would be necessary if voters reject his tax-hike initiative in November, The Associated Press reported.
2012-2013 Revised Budget: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/