The severity of the state’s budget crisis could carve another $12 million from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and jeopardize its on-going, but successful, programs against invasive pests.
The cuts, revealed Jan. 5 in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, would be on top of the $19 million trimmed from the agency’s budget this year.
One program not likely to be affected is the campaign to control the Asian citrus psyllid, the pest that can carry the terminal disease, huanglongbing.
“The operations program, the boots on the ground program, is not impacted by these budget cuts, because it’s all industry funded,” said Ted Batkin, president of the Citrus Research Board, Visalia. “But there are going to be some serious cuts to our overall invasive species defensive posture in that they’re looking to reduce the border station diligence by a significant amount.”
Brown’s proposed budget calls for a nearly $4.4 million reduction in the CDFA’s $20 million border inspection program.
Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League, likened the reduced border security to having a police officer stationed periodically on a corner.
“He’s not going to be there every day, but if people don’t know when he’s there, they are still going to be watchful of running the red light,” he said.
The border inspection cuts could affect a wide range of the state’s fruit and vegetable crops.
“That’s a negative for not just the citrus industry, but for all of agriculture,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter. “There is always an opportunity for invasive pests, whether they be (Asian citrus psyllid) or medfly or the date palm weevil; that’s the problem.”
While the CDFA budget cut was not unexpected, Bedwell said the clock continues to run on the state’s failure to plan for properly funding invasive pest programs. Since keeping pests from damaging California crops benefits nearly everyone — retailers, the nursery industry, consumers and agriculture, funding has traditionally come from the state’s general fund, he said.
The focus for the balance of 2012, Bedwell said, is to create a mechanism to reach the maximum amount of people to properly fund these programs and replace the general fund dollars.
“Agriculture needs to pay its fair share,” he said. “The immediate challenge that I think many of us in agriculture are going to have to try to come forth with is ideas on how we reach the most consumers possible to help fund these programs. Not everyone’s going to be pleased with the solution.”
There could be in the coming months numerous changes in the governor’s budget. What is known as the governor’s budget revise must by law be forwarded to the Legislature in May. The state constitution requires the lawmakers to approve a balanced budget by July 1, a date they have routinely ignored.