Calif. ag is an example of tax and water issues
California grows 400 commercially viable crops and it is one of the most expensive states in which to grow crops because of all the government regulation thrown onto a grower and the state operating with a negative budget. More and more agricultural user fees are being placed on growers as the government doesn’t have general budget funds.
What starts in California is often said to spread across the country, and with the concern about cutting government budgets, farmers and ranchers can expect being required to pick up the cost of agriculture regulation and services.
“We have cut a lot of programs,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “We started out by cutting out things that would be nice to do, and last year I cut the things that were important to do. We are solely focused on core mission.”
Ross fielded questions from a group of agricultural journalists at a breakfast meeting in Sacramento sponsored by Novozymes earlier this year. She was appointed secretary of the DCFA Jan. 12, 2011, by Governor Edmund Brown Jr.
“The general fund has historically been about one-third of our operating budget. Our cooperative agreements with USDA, because of all the invasive species and animal disease issues, are part of our budget, and then we have a number of programs that are industry funded. We have quality standards and inspections, we have 54 marketing orders and commissions that run marketing programs. Our weight and measures was historically generally funded; now that entire $400,000 is through fees. So, we are rapidly moving to the same fee position.
“Air (quality) boards, water boards, all the permits needed to move water in the state, are fee funded. A lot of other agencies aren’t dependent on general funds. We (CDFA) have been because of public benefit of public health and safety issues.
If programs aren’t funded or if budgets are cut too much, Ross said, repercussions will often not be seen for three years or more, but there will be repercussions that could require much larger funding to overcome what eventually happens.
Ross sees the inspection to keep insects and diseases out of the state as a prime example of this funding conundrum. Not stopping pests at the state’s borders will result in a costly eradication program three years from now.
“The frightening part is that we will not know some of the impacts for possibly two to three years because what we’ve had to do is cut back on surveillance. It is much cheaper to keep the pests out. It is an expensive system to put in border stations to do the inspections and monitor all the traffic, but it is much cheaper than running one eradication program, and especially having to do it in a state where the urban population is usually where we have to run the program and they are not horribly sympathetic of something they think is being done to them or someone else. That is an ever increasing challenge to running any of our programs.