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End of Ohio Department of Agriculture?

Published Nov. 12, 2009 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News

Bills call for restructuring Ohio’s government

A proposal being considered by Ohio lawmakers calls for cutting the number of state departments in half and merging them into other offices. Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) opposes eliminating the Ohio Department of Agriculture as a cabinet level department and moving it into a new agency, Resource Protection.

OFBF policy calls for maintaining the “importance of the Ohio Department of Agriculture as a cabinet level agency because of its role in the health and safety of all Ohioans. In any future plans for reorganization of government, agriculture needs to maintain a strong presence.”

OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher told lawmakers recently that OFBF supports ideas, including government reorganization, that will help the state meet its fiscal obligations but that “the existing proposal diminishes agriculture’s presence within state government.”

More than four years ago, a similar bill was introduced and contained many of the streamlining proposals made by then Attorney General Jim Petro who was running for governor. The bill died in committee.

Senate Bill 52, introduced by Sen. Tim Grendell, calls for eliminating 11,000 jobs and cutting the number of state agencies from two dozen to 10. Only the Veterans Services Department would not be changed. Unions, in particular the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, have criticized the bill, saying the economy and reductions in revenue have already resulted in the loss of 4,500 state employees since January 2007. Union officials also say the bill does not have an analysis of projected savings or how they would be achieved.

But Grendell, R-Chesterland, said streamlining state operations is needed to create a more efficient government that will help Ohio deal with budget constraints. He estimated his plan would save taxpayers up to $1 billion.

“We are at a crossroads in Ohio history and now is the time for swift and decisive action. We must lead by example. If we are going to ask Ohioans to make and accept cuts in their daily lives, then government must follow suit, which is why I support a thorough review and reorganization of state government from top to bottom,” he said in introducing his bill.

A similar measure, House Bill 25, was introduced by John Adams, R-Sidney, but has not had any hearings yet.

“Leaders from both parties are very sincere at looking for ways to make government more efficient through government consolidation. While we can agree with the general concept, we disagree very much with particular details,” said Beth Vanderkooi, OFBF’s director of state policy.

Under the restructuring plan, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency would become part of the Resource Protection Department.

“Our primary concerns are that it eliminates the Ohio Department of Agriculture and splits vital agriculture components into a variety of core missions. That means not all ag areas will go into the resource protection office,” Vanderkooi said.

For example, she said ag bioterrorism would move into the Public Safety Department and the Ohio State Fair would fall under Finance & Operations while county fairs would be in Resource Protection.

“We’ll be taking a close look at the proposal to identify our concerns and what should and should not be in the reorganization plan,” Vanderkooi said. “First and foremost, agriculture needs to be unified and in a position of prominence.

New Departments

House and Senate bills propose restructuring state government and reducing the number of cabinet level departments. The new departments would be:

Education

Public Safety

Public Health

Transportation & Infrastructure

Finance & Operations

Human Resource Development

Community & Institutional Rehabilitation

Business

Resource Protection

Development

 

Advisory Council Questions: Does your council support reducing the size of state government through reorganization? What potential adverse affects can you foresee? Share your answers on the Ohio Farm Bureau Advisory Discussion Board.



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