Krautmann: 'A terrible mistake to scuttle that program'
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Two themes emerged in a legislative hearing on the Oregon Department of Agriculture's budget: The department has strong support from the state's farm community, and the department needs more money than is provided in the governor's recommended budget for fighting noxious weeds.
Gov. John Kitzhaber's two-year recommended budget for the department includes a reduction of $518,896 in the department's weed program, or about 25 percent of the program's state funding.
"The effectiveness of our weed-control program is what keeps us viable as a small farm," said Mark Krautmann, a Salem-area nursery operator and one of several to testify against the program cuts. "I think it would be a terrible mistake to scuttle that program, considering the huge payoff it has relative to the cost."
Overall funding in the governor's ODA budget is up from $83.9 million in 2011-13 to just over $93 million for the upcoming biennium.
The budget includes a $5.1 million increase in general funds allocated the department, up from $12.9 million in the 2011-13 budget to $18 million in the 2013-15 biennium, and an increase in positions, from 343 full-time-equivalent positions in 2011-13 to 349 positions in the next biennium.
Farmers who testified before the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources Feb. 28 expressed support for several department programs, including water-quality and pesticide stewardship programs that are well-funded in the governor's budget.
The budget includes $1.38 million for the department's pesticide stewardship partnership program and $962,654 for ODA's agricultural water-quality monitoring program.The monitoring program includes landscape monitoring and ambient water-quality monitoring.
Also emerging from the hearing was support for the state's wolf compensation program.
"It's a small part of their budget, but for those who are affected, it is very, very important," the Oregon Cattlemen Association's Bill Hoyt said of the program.
Fast also spoke in support of the compensation.
"It is important that we continue the wolf compensation program," she said. "In Eastern Oregon that is having a significant impact on some small communities and in their ability to deal with the reintroduction of the wolf."
Fast, like others, also praised the department.
"Under (ODA Director) Katy Coba's leadership, the agency has done an excellent job of balancing their mission of promoting the industry and at the same time regulating it," Fast said.
Lottery funds in the budget are down from $6.9 million in the current biennium to $5.8 million in 2013-15.
"We are very supportive of the water-quality monitoring package and feel that continuation of the funding that was given last session is critical in being able to manage nonpoint source and seeing where we are doing a good job and where improvements need to continue," said Katie Fast of the Oregon Farm Bureau.