Testimony is heating up in the Statehouse as advocates pursue changes to initial funding proposals for state agencies and programs. While the budget process is just getting underway, Ohio Farm Bureau is keeping a close eye on how the final budget may shape up.
As reported in the previous Buckeye Farm News, the Ohio Department of Agriculture faces an 8.8 percent cut in fiscal year 2012 with the same level of funding the next year. The biggest change is a new fee for operators of large scales and large meters such as those used to weigh trucks or measure fuel or are used at grain elevators. The fee would be $75 per device that would go into ODA’s weights and measures program.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) face a 100 percent reduction in general revenue funding as well as partial reductions in other sources of funding.
“There is concern about SWCDs. They are making the case for restoring the funding” said Beth Vanderkooi, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of state policy. “SWCDs are integral for farmers.”
“We are opposed to the 100 percent reduction in the general revenue funding, especially since there is no additional fee mechanism to cover this huge loss of funding,” said SWCD President Kent Stuckey in testimony to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Finance. He asked that the House consider restoring the $2.9 million general revenue funding to the SWCD or provide an alternative solution.
Ag and Natural Resources Subcommittee of Finance Chairman Troy Balderson has indicated that the House may reinstate some funding for SWCDs.
“We believe SWCDs should play a key role in how drilling in the shale formations for oil and gas development in the state takes place,” Stuckey said. “There will be huge impacts to the land and water resources on private lands, and we are the experts that can work with these individuals and the oil and gas companies to ensure soil stability, erosion control and other surface and subsurface issues are addressed.”