Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey says 50 jobs within the Iowa Department of Agriculture will have to be eliminated if the legislature endorses the governor’s budget plan for the agency.
Governor Culver, a Democrat, proposed a general outline of state spending for all executive branch agencies this past Wednesday. Northey, a Republican, says there’s about $800,000 less in the ag department’s budget plan for salaries.
“We’ll certainly see some reduction in force,” Northey says. “We’re down about 10 percent in the number of people compared to last year.”
Northey predicts staff levels in the department will be down another 10 to 15 percent under this latest budget scenario, and he’ll have to lay some workers off as he won’t be able to accomplish all the staff reductions through attrition or retirements. Two years ago, the state ag department operated with a general fund budget of about $22 million. The governor’s recommending a budget of $16.8 million for the next fiscal year. Northey suggests that’s a throwback budget.
“We’re actually funded at the same level we were in 1994,” Northey says.
While the legislature “has something to say” about the level of funding Northey’s agency will receive in the next budgeting year, Northey doesn’t expect lawmakers to provide his agency with more money,
“We don’t really expect that there’s going to be more dollars in a budget that’s so upside down,” Northey says. “…We’re going to see another 50 people out of our department not being there a year from now.”
In addition, there will be less state grant money to award for water conservation projects, for example, and there will be fewer inspectors, like the ones who ensure devices that weigh animals sold at livestock auctions around the state are accurate. There will be fewer inspectors to oversee feed and fertilizer dealers, too.
“Generally, most folks will still not necessarily see that something is not safe,” Northey says. “But the challenge is at what level does that risk become high enough that it starts to impact regular Iowans?”
Northey made his comments late this morning during taping of the IPTV program, “Iowa Press,” which airs tonight at 7:30.