From the NH Farm Bureau – time sensitive!
In a surprise development last Wednesday a floor amendment was offered in the Senate to SB 132, a study bill. The action establishes a Commission directed with developing implementation plans for merging: the Department of Cultural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, the Department of Fish and Game, the Division of Parks and Recreation, and the Division of Forests and Lands into a newly established Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The plan calls for all Fish and Game law enforcement functions to be merged under the Department of Safety.
The amendment was brought forward by Senator Maggie Hassan of Exeter. The merger proposal was identified as a possible efficiency by Governor Lynch in his budget address this past February. He said the idea merited further consideration and study for 2012-2013.
Farm Bureau policy strongly supports an autonomous Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food. The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee has scheduled a public hearing on SB 132 for Thursday, April 23, 11:00 a.m. in Room 306 of the Legislative Office Building. This is a serious threat to the future of the Department. Strong attendance is needed at the hearing. If you can not attend the hearing, please call and voice your opposition to the members of the Committee nearest you and to your representative(s). Talking Points, Executive Department and Administration Committee members and Bill Sponsor contact information follows:
- Financially the Department pulls its own weight. It sustains itself on a very modest budget. It is in no way a cause of the states budget problems.
- Merging the Department would not save the state money. A merger could be used to mask a cut in services.
- Losing the Department undermines the nearly billion dollar agricultural industry in the state ($975,000,000) and the local production of fresh and safe food. The farming industry strongly opposes any change or loss of the Commissioner of Agriculture position. The position and Department are nearly a century old and the Commissioner is a leader and spokesperson for the industry, particularly within state government.
- Closing the Department will be viewed by farmers as demoralizing. Agriculture would lose its identity within state government.
- With the states growing urban and sprawling suburban communities, many NH residents have little understanding of the basics of agriculture, which provides the sustenance of life itself- food and agricultures contribution to the quality of life. The Departments role is more important than ever. It has a series of experienced staffers who are readily accessible to the public and are able to explain this specialized industry.
- The Department is home to a long list of important services to agriculture and the general public (consumers): consumer and environmental protection, commodity, industry and state promotion, control and eradication of contagious and infectious diseases of domestic animals and poultry in the state, enforcement of animal welfare and abuse laws, ensuring safe and proper use of chemical pesticides, insect and plant inspection and monitoring, farm product inspection, (commodities, feed, seeds, fertilizer), organic certification program, easement monitoring, oversees product labeling and quality laws, manure management issues and conflict resolution, BMPs promotion, weight and measuring device inspection and regulation (gas pumps, store scales etc.), liaison with government including- USDA, academic and research institutions (UNH, Cornell) and numerous state and local agencies. All this and more is coordinated with 36 full-time employees and 3 part-time staffers.
Agriculture in the state is growing:
- From 2002 – 2007 the number of farms in NH increased 24%, 3,363 to 4,166 (2007 Census of Agriculture)
- From 2002 2007 land in farms increased 6%, 444,879 517,879 (2007 Census of Agriculture)
- NH is ranked #1 in the nation in percentage of farms having direct sales to consumers (nearly 25%)
- NH is ranked #1 in the nation in percentage of farms with women as principal operators (30%).
NH House Executive Departments and Administration Committee:
(note: while phone calls are most effective, if you need an email address use Who’s My Leg? to communicate your opposition to the merger of the Dept of Ag under other departments)
Anne-Marie Irwin, Chair Peterborough, New Ipswich, Sharon, Greenville 924-6617
Laurie Harding, V.Chair Lebanon
Maurice Pilotte, Clerk Manchester
Patricia McMahon North Sutton, Newbury
Jean Jeudy Manchester
Peter Schmidt Dover
Catriona Beck Bennington, Francestown, Greenland, Deering 588-3053
Daniel Sullivan Manchester
Don Petterson Brentwood
Charlotte Houde-Quimby Meriden, Cornish, Grantham
Joan Flurey Manchester
Ken Hawkins Bedford
Kenneth Gould Derry
Representatives who are sponsors of SB 132:
Donna Schlackman Exeter, North Hampton, Stratham 772-4934
Sharon Nordgren Hanover
Melissa Lyons Kingston, Hampstead, Plaistow
Public Hearing: Thursday, April 23
Executive Departments and Administration, Room 306, LOB
11:00 a.m. SB 132, establishing a commission to develop implementation plans for merging state agencies and programs to enhance efficiency and lower costs.