'There are no good outcomes when the governor asks to cut that amount'
By WES SANDER
SACRAMENTO -- Agriculture groups say it will be difficult to compensate for cuts expected in the state's budget and that producers must learn to adapt as programs shrink.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is bracing to lose a third of its taxpayer funding in the next two budget years. In response to a governor's order, Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross has proposed cuts to reduce the CDFA's use of state taxpayer money by $15 million during 2011-12.
"That is a very serious hit," said Dave Puglia, senior vice president for government affairs with Western Growers. "Everyone agrees there are no good outcomes when the governor asks to cut that amount."
The general fund portion of the agency's 2010-11 budget is $99.1 million, said Bob Wynn, a CDFA senior adviser. It accounts for roughly a third of CDFA's overall budget, which also uses federal dollars and industry assessments for specific programs.
For most producers, there is a core of programs topping the list of importance. For animal agriculture, it's disease control. In crop production, it's pest control and exclusion.
Ross has proposed eliminating funding from the Weed Management Program, Noxious Weed Program and Agriculture Security and Emergency Response program, saving a combined $2.9 million. She also proposed shaving $700,000 from light brown apple moth control.
The secretary wants to cut $300,000 from the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System and $200,000 from the Milk and Dairy Food Safety program.
The proposed cuts were assembled with input from a list of ag interests.
"I think we did the best we could, under really bad circumstances, to protect that core," Puglia said. "There will be some impact, but we've minimized it."
Michael Marsh, CEO of Western United Dairymen, said it will become increasingly difficult to fill veterinarians' positions. The state has had difficulty keeping up with job attrition in recent years, and veterinarians can make more money in the private sector, Marsh said.
The agency is reducing or eliminating its funding of 19 programs. Many of the state's agriculture-related programs are funded by a combination of state, federal and county money.
To compensate, Ross has said fees could be increased in such areas as phytosanitary certification and meat and poultry inspections. Ross also wants to find ways to share costs with other agencies. Such cooperation could be employed in areas where agencies share concerns, like invasive-species control and border inspections, two areas of importance to wildlife regulators.
CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle said the process of finalizing the cuts, along with a set of adjustments to help compensate for losses, could extend another two months. Adjustments are expected to include combining efforts with other agencies and increasing industry fees and assessments.