By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- The joint Ways and Means Committee has approved an Oregon Department of Agriculture budget that ODA Director Katy Coba characterized as "probably the best budget we've had since I've been director."
Previously, in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee, lawmakers added funds to the department's 2013-15 budget, resurrecting a weed program that was facing severe cuts and doubling the state's wolf compensation fund.
The budget the full Ways and Means Committee moved June 6 increases the department's overall funding from $84 million in 2011-13 to just under $95 million for the next biennium.
Full-time staff under the budget will increase from 343 to 351.
"In general, we fared amazingly well," Coba said.
The subcommittee added $500,000 to the department's weed program, a program that was facing $518,896 in cuts under a previous budget proposal.
The cuts would have cost the department three of its 11-member weed-program staff, according to Coba.
The program works to keep invasive weeds out of Oregon.
And the subcommittee increased the state's wolf compensation and assistance fund from $100,000 in the current biennium to $200,000 for the next two years.
The fund compensates ranchers for livestock losses to wolves and helps cover the cost of installing nonlethal prevention measures.
Lawmakers also put $1.49 million in the state's pesticide stewardship partnership program. The program, which is funded equally by general funds and fees paid by pesticide registrants, encourages voluntary changes in pesticide use to improve water quality in streams.
And lawmakers put $4.4 million into the department's agricultural water quality program, including $1.9 million of general funds.
Lawmakers also provided the department a water-quantity position to work with stakeholders and other agencies on increasing water supply development in Oregon.