BOISE — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture is asking lawmakers for permission to add eight new positions that will help it keep pace with increasing demand for services from the state’s agricultural industry.
“We’re just trying to keep pace with demand, going the direction the markets are leading,” ISDA Director Celia Gould told Capital Press. “These new positions reflect the growth in our industry.”
Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget requests $45.4 million for the department, which is $300,000 less than ISDA’s current fiscal 2018 budget.
Gould said ISDA employees are working full bore to keep up with increasing demand for inspections, certifications and other services.
“Over the last several years, it’s grown to the point that inspection-wise, we’re bursting at the seams,” she said. “We try to run a lean, mean machine here and try to run with as few positions as we possibly can ... but at some point in time, you would be doing a detriment to your industry and we don’t want to be in that position.”
Gould said ISDA is “excited that our industries are continuing to grow. It’s a good problem to have.”
As an example of the increased demand for services, the ISDA’s animal laboratory over the last year has experienced a six-fold increase in lab work related to the new cattle processing facility in Kuna, said Chanel Tewalt, ISDA’s chief of operations.
Despite the request for eight new positions, ISDA’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget is actually slightly smaller than its 2018 budget.
That’s because the department was able to reduce excess spending authority in some divisions that offset the money needed for the new positions, said Kelly Nielsen, ISDA’s chief fiscal officer.
“So we didn’t need to ask for additional spending authority, we just needed to ask for positions,” he said.
Two of the new requested positions are to keep up with the growth of the department’s organics program and two will work in the department’s dairy inspection program.
The dairy inspection program “is going gang busters, particularly on the processing side,” Gould said.
The department also seeks three new employees who will be trained to conduct voluntary on-farm readiness reviews and other outreach and education efforts for producers who will be impacted by FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act requirements.
ISDA also seeks to add a lab quality assurance manager who will perform duties that currently occupy the time of employees who work in the department’s seven laboratories. That will free up those employees to focus solely on the increased demand for lab services, Nielsen said.
ISDA’s 2019 budget requests $11.9 million from the state’s general fund, which is equal to its 2018 budget, and it seeks $6.3 million in spending authority for federal funds, which is $1 million less than the current budget.
ISDA also asks for $26.6 million in dedicated funds, which is $1 million more than in 2018. Those are fees that industry pays directly for certain services.