Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Florez Proposal Bad for Ag and Consumers

Fresh produce industry opposes California senator’s threat to cut California agriculture department
Published on 06/29/2009 11:59am By Don Schrack

In the wake of a June 16 Senate Food and Agriculture hearing — chaired by California state senator Dean Florez — the list of grower-shippers displeased with the senator appears to be growing. The hearing focused on the senator’s proposal to consolidate or eliminate the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“It would make absolutely no sense to destroy the agency that oversees diseases — everything from cow pox to anthrax, from the West Nile virus to some of the most dangerous pests that can destroy agriculture and our landscape,” said Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League. “Who does he represent? What constituency?”

The proposal is designed to provide a more streamlined, more efficient government entity, Florez said, and to reduce the cost of the department for taxpayers. His proposal includes — among other things — moving oversight of fertilizer, chemical and pest control to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, giving the tasks of health and animal inspection to other agencies and eliminating the department’s marketing efforts by converting to private, non-profit corporations the state’s roughly four dozen marketing commissions.

“By breaking up CDFA, it certainly doesn’t look as if it would increase efficiencies,” said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, Fresno. “You’d probably be going the other direction, and I doubt it would save money.”

California taxpayers foot the bill for less than 30% of the agency’s budget, said Mike Jarvis, the department’s deputy secretary of public affairs. State tax dollars in the agency’s budget amount to $3.67 for each California resident, he said, but combined grower fees and federal funds in the budget make up more than $15 per resident.

”The problem is there’s an assumption that if you just move things, it’s going to be cheaper, and it doesn’t work that way,” Jarvis said. Read More

It’s interesting that many times politicians feel that departments of agriculture are expendable. They apparently think they will appear to be some sort of fiscal hero by eliminating an entire department. However, to me it is a sign of complete ignorance as to the importance of our food supply. Anyone who is willing to risk the safety and dependability of our country’s food supply should first go hungry and naked for a few days to see how they like it.

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