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Brown's proposed budget finds less room for agriculture

by Chris Hinyub, published

As part of his attempt to cover a $25 billion deficit over an 18 month period, Governor Brown plans to cut funding for state farm programs. In his 2011-2012 budget proposal, Brown has asked agricultural groups to work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to determine which parts of the department's general fund shall be scaled back.


The Wisconsin Agriculturist is reporting that the new budget would eliminate:


     “$32 million from the California Fair Network, $15 million from CDFA's general budget for 2011-2012, and $15 million from the following budget which will result in an ongoing $30 million dollar reduction.”


The article goes on to say that programs typically financed through general funds, such as pest exclusion and prevention, are at the greatest risk. Likely to be on the chopping block are state cost-sharing dollars to control the spread of Pierce's disease, a bacterial infection spread by insects which could jeopardize the state's multifaceted grape industry.


The newly proposed budget would also eliminate state support of Williamson Act subventions. This law allows private landholders to contract with local governments and voluntarily restrict their land to certain farm and open-space uses. Individuals who go this route are rewarded with lower property taxes because their restricted land is assessed below its potential market value. The proposed budget suggests that counties can make up for lost funding with the potential revenue generated by eliminating enterprise zones.


Last, the governor's office plans to implement significant fee increases to be imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board in the form of Water Rights Fees, Irrigated Land fees and Water Discharge fees. All of this will serve to compensate for reduced access by the board to General Fund dollars.


Agricultural groups will be meeting with representatives of the CDFA over the next two weeks to discuss the recommended cuts and suggest alternative funding for at-risk programs. The CDFA has until February 1st to finalize its budget recommendations.

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