(CORRECTED): A $16 billion state budget shortfall in California will lead to cutbacks in border pest protection activities.
Dave Puglia, Sacramento-based senior vice president for Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers. said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross briefed industry leaders May 14 with a plan that will require $2.5 million in cuts from the agriculture budget to deal with what he called a “rolling crisis.”
“It is very difficult to process another round of cuts to CDFA, minor though they may be on paper,” Puglia said.
Budget stresses have resulted in $31 million in cuts to the general fund support for the agriculture department in the last two years, he said. Those cuts represent about 30% of traditional general fund support for the department, Puglia said
“The vast majority of those cuts are coming out of the plant side of CDFA, not the animal side,” he said.
Puglia said Ross told industry leaders that the majority of the expected $2.5 million in cuts may come out of the state’s border inspection stations, potentially starting when the new fiscal year begins in July 1.
While Puglia credited the CDFA’s Ross for implementing creative strategies to keep border inspection stations open with rotating hours, he said additional cuts will hurt.
“Major pathways still have 24/7 coverage, but those back road entry ways into the state will probably see very little border station activity,” he said. “Our exposure (to pests and diseases) is being increased.”
Cutting $2.5 million from the CDFA budget will weaken protection for agriculture while not contributing much to solve the deficit crisis, he said.
“Every additional cut is deeper into the bone,” he said.
The lack of funds will put more pressure on the industry to fund programs, but Puglia said the state’s growers are already heavily burdened by fees and taxes not only from CDFA but other state agencies including the State Water Resources Control Board, Cal EPA and other agencies.
“The reality is that California farmers are already paying exorbitant fees to support state government programs,” he said.
The total pro CDFA budget in 2012-13 is proposed at $340 million, of which about $63 million comes from the state’s general fund, $106 million comes from the federal budget, $156 million comes from special/industry funds and $14 million is from reimbursements.
Puglia said the industry is talking about other strategies to raise funds for support of agriculture programs.
“Everyone should be coming to the realization that the general fund dollars are going away and we’ve got to figure out a mechanism to make sure we can adequately fund protection and eradication of invasive pests without all of the costs falling strictly on agriculture,” Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League, said in a comment about the crisis.
Note on correction: The original story cited budget cutbacks of $2.1 million at CDFA. The correct number is $2.5 million for 2012-13.