Wyoming ag agency budgets hold steady for 2013-2014Written by Saige Albert
Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Director Jason Fearneyhough says, “We don’t really have a lot of new projects, but there are a couple of things that we are excited about that have come through.”
The Rangeland Health Assessment Program was supported by the Governor’s budget, and the WDA is excited to see the program continue.
“We are trying to help producers gather credible monitoring data to keep them out on the range,” says Fearneyhough. “It’s a project we started a few years back, and hopefully we can grow in the next few years.”
Fearneyhough notes another area supported in the Governor’s budget was support funding for the new weights and measures lab. The WDA will begin moving into the new facility this spring.
“We got some support funding through the budget to help put in new equipment to replace the old equipment in the lab,” adds Fearneyhough. “We are really excited about that new facility.”
Continued support for the Animal Damage Management Board (ADMB) was noted by Fearneyhough as one of the three top items in the WDA budget for this legislative session.
“The ADMB is incredibly vital to the state of Wyoming and the ag producers,” he says.
One item that people will see missing from the budget is funding for grasshoppers, adds Fearneyhough.
“The last couple of years we have had several million dollars for grasshoppers based on information from APHIS scientists,” explains Fearneyhough. “We sat down with the scientists, and they don’t think we are going to have grasshoppers at the level we have in the past.”
He notes that the grasshopper funds were emergency monies only requested to alleviate the strain for damage and control of the pest.
Fearneyhough will meet with the Joint Appropriations Committee on Jan. 9 to further discuss the budgets. The WDA budget includes $36.5 million from the General Fund of the total $43.9 million requested by the agency.
Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Director Leanne Stevenson says her agency was not recommended to take any cuts in the standard budget. She adds that only one of three exemption request items was approved, however. Computerization, the approved exemption item, was granted for the integrated computerization of the board.
“The WLSB has been trying to get computerized for numerous years,” explains Stevenson, noting that lack of funding or new directions prevented past efforts from coming to fruition. “I feel like the stars are aligned right now to allow us to move forward with computerization.”
“We have support from the governor, the Office of the Chief Information Officer and within our own agency,” she adds. “We are in phase one right now and having the right discussions.”
Stevenson explains that the first step is to prepare a request for proposals that would allow the WLSB to hire a project manager after funding is secured. The project manager would work closely with staff to ensure a system is integrated.
“The first phase is to get the centralized office computerized and get it on a core system,” says Stevenson. “Right now there is a lot of duplication of efforts.”
Computerization would integrate animal health, brand inspection and recording.
The exemption request for computerization amounted to nearly $560,000, and Governor Mead recommended that $195,000 of that come from the General Fund.
With computerization as the big-ticket item for the WLSB, Stevenson also mentioned the brucellosis funding included in their budget. The emergency money provided in brucellosis funds in the WLSB budget has been under scrutiny for cuts.
“At the end of the biennium we have reverted money because we didn’t use it,” she says, adding that the funds are still important to have available.
“It’s a tough situation that we have to defend to keep those dollars available if they are needed,” says Stevenson. “We hope that we don’t have to use it, but it has to be there if we need it.”
Stevenson adds that the emergency funds are important to help relieve the burden in the event of a major disease outbreak for testing costs or to get herds out of quarantine.
While this year some of the funds have been utilized in brucellosis cases, the levels have been reduced, and Stevenson says, “We have offered up some cuts in that area.”
Also in the scope of the WLSB, animal identification is an item that won’t be a part of the budget requests for this year. Animal identification funding is in an appropriation attached to the bill.
“Who knows whether or not the livestock identification bill will even see committee with the budgets and redistricting in this session,” comments Stevenson.
The WLSB requested nearly $8.8 million from the general fund, with the Governor recommending only $8.3 million. The total budget of the WLSB for is $17.64 million for the biennium.
As for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), Public Information Officer Eric Keszler says only a small portion of WGFD funds come from the general fund.
“The majority of our budget comes from other sources,” says Keszler, who adds that license revenue comprises the majority of the Department’s funding.
Only about six percent of the WGFD budget comes from the general fund, with the 2010 budget session of the legislature allocating $10.9 million over the biennium.
“The general fund appropriation is for specific programs that, over the past several years, have included the wolf, sensitive species and aquatic invasive species programs, as well as disease research,” adds Keszler. “We have made some proposed cuts based on direction from the Governor’s office, but they are fairly minor for these programs.”
The proposed commission budget, as listed in the WGFD Strategic Plan for fiscal year 2012-2016, marks $71.5 million as the proposed budget, with an estimated $62 million in revenue received. Only $9 million of that amount comes from the General Fund, with $800,000 originating from other funds.