"Our work is definitely cut out for us. We can't do more with less all of the time," said Parham, who said he is in the process of realigning resources. "But the reality is that pest and disease exclusion is a priority for USDA, and California is our first line of defense."
During the APHIS meeting, Farm Bureau Second Vice President Jamie Johansson, an olive oil producer in Oroville, told Parham that "budget crises are everywhere and certainly in California."
"The point we emphasized is that California is the first line of defense for pest protection, so whatever we can do to maintain the presence at the border and international visitors, that is the critical message to get across," Johansson said. "The governor's budget calls for cuts in the California Department of Food and Agriculture budget of $15 million this year and an additional $15 million next year. These cuts put more importance on federal funding for APHIS programs."
USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, in a recent interview with Ag Alert®, called the budget cuts to agriculture "significant."
"The cuts mostly hit three agencies the hardest at USDA: NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), ARS (Agricultural Research Service) and APHIS," Merrigan said. "There were some significant cuts and there are more significant cuts on the horizon."
She said the department will "have to tighten the belt and just forego some of the things that we know we want to do, that we need to do. We may just have to put it off for a few years until we get things under control."
Other issues the Farm Bureau group emphasized included implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, reform of the federal estate tax and support for pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
"I agree with Farm Bureau on the importance of world trade, but on behalf of the cut-flower industry, we'd just like a little bit of verbiage that acknowledges that the fair trade agreement with Colombia does affect us because they are our direct competitor," said Todd Ingham, a flower grower from Ventura County.
Farm Bureau members also met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on key crop protection measures, including the development of regulations to address endangered species and the Clean Water Act.
Placer County Farm Bureau director Christine Turner, a retired county agricultural commissioner, emphasized the importance of representing farmers and ranchers before government officials in Washington.
"In telling California's agricultural story to congressional representatives and others, I realized that our voice does matter and we can make a difference by being engaged in our political process," Turner said. "Although the political process is slow and cumbersome and often difficult to work through, it can work. But it requires everyone to participate in creating workable solutions. The bottom-line message I came away with is: get involved!"
Source: Christine Souza, California Farm Bureau Federation