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IDALS maps how it will sustain state cuts

By Staff | Oct 16, 2009

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey last week said another cut in state spending mandated in all state departments will scale back the state’s agriculture funding to 1994 levels.

Last week, Gov. Chet Culver ordered a 10 percent across-the-board budget cut. Northey said his department sustained a 15 percent cut in the current fiscal year going from $22 million to $18.7 million. The next round of cuts will whittle the byudget by $1.87 million, to $16.8 million.

The department, Northey said, is currently authorized 408 full time employees. Due to the previous cuts the department has not been filling positions and currently has 37 open full time slots. The 371 FTEs are the fewest number of employees within IDALS in more than 20 years. These numbers are before the additional 10 percent cut announced last week.

The department set the previous 15 percent cut by not filling open positions, with three permanent layoffs, and mandatory leave without pay for the department’s 38 non-contract employees, offering voluntary leave without pay to all employees, and using one-time funding sources such as depreciation funds that was authorized during the legislature last session.

It is still unclear what additional steps will be needed to handle the additional $1.87 million cut, but layoffs and possible elimination of certain department functions are possible.

“The (depatment) has taken a significant reduction over the past year and another 10 percent cut in funding will have a dramatic affect on how we operate and the services we will be able to provide,” Northey said. “We will spend less money in this fiscal year than was spent 16 years ago, all while state government has grown approximately 48 percent in the same period of time.”

Department overview

The department is responsible for a wide variety of consumer protection and agriculture promotion programs. This includes regulating meat processing, commercial feed and fertilizer, pesticide application and dairy production and processing.

The weights and measures bureau makes sure both buyers and sellers are treated fairly at gas pumps, at grocery stores and grain elevators.

The state climatologist, entomologist, horticulturalist and veterinarian are all part of the department. Other areas of IDALS’ responsibility agriculture statistics, the Iowa horse and dog breeding program and helping promote the more than 170 farmers markets located across the state.

Land stewardship is also central function of the department, Northey noted. “The Division of Soil Conservation provides farmers with expertise and funds to help them install practices that preserve our highly productive soil, prevent erosion and protect our critical waterways.”

“IDLAS is focused on making sure future Iowans can experience the same high quality of life that past generations have enjoyed in our state,” Northey said.

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