NORTHEY: 2011 LEGISLATIVE SESSION PRESENTED CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE IOWA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND LAND STEWARDSHIP

Written by on July 22, 2011 in News

Budget still a concern after another $175,000 general fund cut, but layoffs not expected. Following Governor Branstad signing the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations bill, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said the 2011 legislative session presented both challenges and opportunities for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The budget contained a $175,000 cut to the Department’s general fund and a $134,100 cut in funding for administration of the Departments soil conservation programs.

A more complete overview of the Department’s 2012 budget can be found on Department’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov.

“Overall, this legislative session was a mixed bag for the Department as legislators showed great confidence in the ability of our employees and gave us a number of new responsibilities, but another $175,000 cut to our general fund budget will continue present challenges,” Northey said.

In addition to the cut in funding, negotiated pay raises and increases in health care expenses will create additional costs and create budget challenges. Northey said the Department does not anticipate any layoffs and will likely continue to handle the cuts through keeping unfilled positions open, reducing expenditures on travel and capital purchases, finding efficiencies, etc.

For the Department’s Division of Soil Conservation funding the support the construction of conservation practices was reduced from $7 million to $6.3 million.

The cuts will affect the Watershed Protection Fund, which was reduced $1.5 million to $900,000, and the Agriculture Drainage Well Closure fund, where the entire $1.5 million in funding was eliminated. Both of these programs were “cost share,” where the government’s investment is matched by the farmer or landowner.

“Despite the cut, overall the conservation funding is pretty good news as the funding should be more sustainable now that it is no longer being funded with one-time bonding dollars,” Northey added. “However, with the cuts we will need to focus on existing projects and it will be difficult to develop any new watershed improvement projects.”

Governor Branstad and the legislature also acted to move a number of programs to the Department in order to improve efficiency. The programs moved to the Department include, egg inspections, dairy survey officers, Iowa Agriculture Development Authority and the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board. The Governor also signed today legislation to move the Water Resources Coordinating Council to the Department.

“I appreciate the confidence shown by Governor Branstad and legislators in the Department and our employees to execute these programs efficiently and effective,” Northey said.

Legislation creating a mechanism for the feeding of animals when an owner runs out of money for feed and a bill making changes to show pig shows and the testing for pseudo rabies also passed and were signed into law during the legislative session.

Following here is a list of bills impacting the Department:

House File 453: Moves egg inspections from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals to the Iowa Department of Agriculture effective July 1, 2012. (Signed by Governor on March 30, 2011)

House File 658: Moves dairy survey officers and inspections from the Iowa Department of Public Health to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship effective July 1, 2011. (Signed by Governor on April 26, 2011)

Senate File 429: Moves the Iowa Agriculture Development Authority back to the Iowa Department of Agriculture effective July 1, 2011 (Signed by Governor on March 30, 2011)

House File 532: Eliminates several outdated responsibilities from the Iowa Department of Agriculture. (Signed by Governor on April 12, 2011)

Senate File 478: Allows for a mechanism for the feeding of livestock when an owner runs out of money for feed. (Signed by Governor on April 20, 2011)

House File 557: Makes changes to pig shows and the testing for pseudo rabies. (Signed by Governor on April 20, 2011)

Senate File 531: As part of the bill dealing with renewable fuels tax credits for ethanol and biodiesel, the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board was moved from the Iowa Department of Economic Development to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. (Signed by Governor on May 26, 2011)

Senate File 535: Moves the Water Resources Coordinating Council (WRCC) from the Governor’s office to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. (Signed by Governor on July 21, 2011)

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