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ODA plans for both budget cuts, increases

EO MEDIA GROUP - The Oregon Department of Agriculture is anticipating a total budget ranging from roughly $103 million to $124 million in the 2017-2019 biennium, depending on whether voters approve a corporate tax increase in November.PENDLETON, Ore. — Oregon’s farm regulators are simultaneously planning for substantial budget cuts and increases due to the state’s uncertain revenue future.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is anticipating a total budget ranging from roughly $103 million to $124 million in the 2017-2019 biennium, depending on whether voters approve a corporate tax increase in November.

The agency’s budget for the current biennium is about $111 million, which means it faces either a 7 percent reduction from its current level, or a boost of nearly 12 percent.

ODA is scrambling to plan for either scenario, as are other state agencies, because Gov. Kate Brown must complete her proposed budget for the next biennium by Dec. 1. — just weeks after the Nov. 8 election.

EO MEDIA GROUP - Katy Coba“We’re all kind of schizophrenic right now,” said Katy Coba, ODA’s director, during the Sept. 13 Oregon Board of Agriculture meeting in Pendleton, Ore.

State agencies have been asked to submit proposed budget cuts due to a large expected rise in state spending on the Public Employee Retirement System, as well as higher healthcare costs, said Coba.

However, the state government is also preparing for the possibility that Measure 97 passes, she said.

That ballot initiative would raise roughly $3 billion a year by imposing a gross receipts tax of 2.5 percent on certain corporations.

Under the $124 million budget request, ODA would hire multiple new employees focused on food safety inspection, agricultural water quality, information services, human resources and public records, among other investments, Coba said.

Positions would be cut from those and other programs, including confined animal feeding operations and insect pest prevention, under the $103 million scenario, she said.

Much of ODA’s budget is derived from fees on different types of farms and other companies who have a good understanding of what service reductions will entail, Coba said.

The situation is more complicated when dealing with the portion of the budget that comes from state general funds, which aren’t directly funded by the same agricultural constituency that receives ODA services, she said.