The Idaho State Department of Agriculture in fiscal 2020 plans to work with a flat operating budget.
The department seeks Idaho Legislature approval of an approximately $44.8 million operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, roughly unchanged from a year earlier. The total includes state sales and income tax revenue, dedicated funds from fees and federal money. The coming year’s spending plan calls for lower capital expenditures and slightly higher personnel costs.
Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould said the new beef-processing plant in Kuna, and increased milk production and processing in the state, exemplify higher food production driving the need for more testing and inspection. Growth of the state’s population and general economy also impact ISDA, which has broader responsibilities such as overseeing weights and measures.
“Growth is coming from production, not prices” in agriculture, she told the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Jan. 16. “Idaho producers are some of the best in the world.”
Most ISDA services are user-paid, as the department since fiscal 2008 decreased its reliance on General Fund revenues (from state income and sales taxes) by 42 percent, Gould said. Fees for phytosanitary and pesticide licenses have not increased in 14 and 20 years, respectively.
A tight labor market challenges agricultural producers and ISDA, which has had difficulty finding part-time workers for settings such as packing sheds, she said. The department is working to make some positions full-time so employees can take on more tasks, like inspecting facilities and grading crops.
New for fiscal 2020, the department requests money to replace computer equipment, vehicles and various scientific equipment, and to cover higher rents as well as a proposed 1 percent increase in employee pay. Agency-wide capital outlay for equipment is a proposed $896,900 compared to nearly $1.6 million a year ago.
An additional senior seed analyst — one full-time position — is needed because recently higher demand has been met by using other staff in crossover capacities, paying overtime, hiring temporary workers and spending more on training, ISDA said in its budget plan. Its seed lab received 27 percent more samples last year and 187 percent more in the past five years.
A request for an additional full-time technical records specialist in the state Animal Health Lab partly reflects a 35 percent increase in samples received in the past three years on a rise in regulatory disease testing, ISDA said.
Livestock disease control would get an additional $175,000 in the proposed budget for temporary staff, lab supplies and training. Factors include the Kuna beef processing plant, and upcoming contracted testing and inspection of sheep.
The department also wants to add a full-time Weights & Measures Bureau inspector in growing Coeur d’Alene.
ISDA’s budget appropriation was $44,815,300 for fiscal 2019. The department requests $44,800,200 for fiscal ’20, slightly lower than the $44,964,400 that Gov. Brad Little recommended.