COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. John Kasich released his “jobs budget” March 15 for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, and most of the state’s ag-related programs face cuts if the General Assembly concurs.
The governor’s proposed biennium budget includes a 9 percent cut in the general funding to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and cuts of 10 percent to Ohio State University Extension and 10 percent to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in fiscal year 2012.
The state’s county-level soil and water conservation districts were even harder hit.
Now, the budget proposal heads to the legislature, where lawmakers will still have a say in what exactly does get cut. However, there is an estimated $8 billion budget shortfall facing the state of Ohio in the next budget, and some cuts are likely to stay in the works.
ODA Director James J. Zehringer said the governor has made it clear the most important thing, even with the budget cuts, is to ensure a safe food supply in Ohio.
Some of the cuts in the ag department’s budget include the elimination of the International Food Market program. However, this will be funded partly through the Ohio Department of Development.
The weights and measurements division is getting an increase in its budget from fiscal year 2011. It will go from $200,000 to $600,000. Zehringer said past cuts have triggered a backlog of six to nine months to get many scales tested for accuracy. The additional funding will come from $75 fees that will be charged per device, which will include large capacity scales like livestock and railway scales.
Another program that did take a hit, but was not eliminated, in the governor’s budget is the Ohio Proud program. However, the marketing end of the program will not be as strong, Zehringer said.
The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board is also included in the governor’s budget proposal. A total of $80,000 has been included.
Zehringer said he feels that will be enough to continue operating the board because the majority of the board’s work in creating standards should be completed in the next few months. He expects the board to then be in what he called maintenance mode.
The Farmland Preservation program received a 63 percent cut in the proposed ODA budget. However, Zehringer said the funding should actually remain steady because it will now be part of the Clean Ohio Fund.
Zehringer said the budget being discussed only includes the general revenue funds, which totals about $14 million in fiscal year 2012. The entire budget for the Ohio Department of Agriculture totals around $47.9 million, which includes federal funds and money collected from fees.
Zehringer said there is a strong possibility of layoffs in the ODA, however it will be a few weeks before it can be determined where the cuts will be made.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is going to feel a 30 percent cut in its budget from last year, if the governor’s proposal goes through.
One area that appears to have suffered a major cut are the county Soil and Water Conservation Districts. General revenue funds to the districts were zeroed out, down from $2.9 million in FY11. Line item funding to districts was decreased 30 percent, from $11.5 million in fiscal year 2011 to $8 million in 2012. Funding levels at $8 million in 2013 as well.
The ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water is looking at a proposed cut of 12.2 percent in FY12.
Kasich is also proposing cuts of 12 percent to the ODNR’s Division of Forestry.
Other cuts that will impact agriculture include a 10 percent cut in funding to Ohio State University Extension service, sea grants and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
The Ohio Expositions Commission budget, which is used to fund the Ohio State Fair, will see a 2.9 decrease from fiscal year 2011 and a 1 percent cut in fiscal year 2013.
One item on the Ohio Expo budget not getting any funding will be the junior fair subsidy, which was $252,000 in fiscal year 2011. It is cut in both years of this biennium budget.