Legislature Considers Taking Dedicated Funds from Ag Department

By Don Molino, Voice of Louisiana Agriculture Radio Network

The latest special session of the Louisiana legislature ended Wednesday night after cutting another $1,245,410 from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry budget.

Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain says further cuts will be based on whether or not there are unfilled vacancies in his department. “In other words, if we have a position that’s not filled, those funds will be cut as well.”

But Strain says he’s most concerned about House Concurrent Resolution One “which directs the treasurer to do an analysis immediately looking into implementing the process to allocate money deposited to the state treasurer from constitutional and statutory dedication that flows through the bond security redemption fund for the purpose of paying state debt.”

Strain says the argument was made in the legislature this has been done before, but “I respectively disagree with that. I believe, when you look at what the constitution says, is those monies flow through that account as security for that account.  Once state debt is paid then the remaining monies are distributed as per law.”

The commissioner used as an example the Grain and Cotton Indemnity Fund “where the farmers have agreed to pay in 1/24th of 1% of their production into a fund to protect any and all farmers in case a grain elevator goes into default.  Then that fund pays the farmer.  It’s there as a self-insurance mechanism.”

“That’s the farmer’s money,” said Strain, “It is not the states money.  It is not tax money.”

According to Strain HCR1 would also affect other areas where farmers are paying their money for research or promotion “and it would not be right to take that money and use it somewhere else to pay for a program or building or any other thing built in the state.”

The regular session of the legislature gets underway April 10th.