ACT NOW to save the NH Department of Agriculture!

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:  

Talking Points

  • Financially the Department pulls its own weight. It sustains itself on a very modest budget. It is in no way a cause of the state’s 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 state’s 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 agriculture’s contribution to the quality of life. The Department’s 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)

Name/Title                             Towns Served                                                  Phone

Anne-Marie Irwin, Chair                        Peterborough, New Ipswich, Sharon, Greenville  924-6617

Laurie Harding, V.Chair              Lebanon                                                          448-5206

Maurice Pilotte, Clerk                 Manchester                                                       623-8173

Patricia McMahon                     North Sutton, Newbury                                     927-4705

Jean Jeudy                                 Manchester                                                       645-5290

Peter Schmidt                            Dover                                                               743-3751

Catriona Beck                            Bennington, Francestown, Greenland, Deering    588-3053

Daniel Sullivan                           Manchester                                                       627-5044

Don Petterson                          Brentwood                                                        772-4519

Charlotte Houde-Quimby          Meriden, Cornish, Grantham                             469-3205

Joan Flurey                                Manchester                                                       624-0525

Ken Hawkins                            Bedford                                                                        472-8270

Russell Day                               Goffstown                                                        497-3672

John Reagan                             Deerfield, Nottingham, Northwood, Candia       463-3009

Kenneth Gould                         Derry                                                                432-9189

Stella Scamman                          Stratham, Exeter, North Hampton                      772-3062

Carol McGuire                          Epsom                                                             782-4918

Calvin Pratt                               Goffstown                                                        497-4337

Donald Ryder                           Hollis, Brookline, Mason                                                465-2706

Carol Vita                                 Middleton, Barrington, Farmington, Milton         755-9955

                                                New Durham, Strafford

Representatives who are sponsors of SB 132:

Name/Title                             Town Serviced                                                 Phone

Donna Schlackman                   Exeter, North Hampton, Stratham                      772-4934

Sharon Nordgren                      Hanover                                                           643-5086

Melissa Lyons                           Kingston, Hampstead, Plaistow                          770-3979

Joseph Russell                           Stratham, Exeter, North Hampton                      580-1504

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.

 

2 Responses to “ACT NOW to save the NH Department of Agriculture!”

  1. Jeff says:

    Just reading this, what was the outcome of the public heating?

    Sorry I didn’t hear about it before, is there anything that can still be done?

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  2. Sara Zoe says:

    @Jeff – the turnout at the hearing was so big they had to change the room!

    There was no one at the hearing that supported the merger done in this fashion, and the representatives/committee definitely heard that. What happens next is either the committee decides it is “inexpedient to legislate” and it just dies, or it comes to a vote, in which case we will need people to once again pick up the phones!

    Here are two blog posts from folks that did go to the hearing:
    http://whatdidshedotoday.typepad.com/what_did_she_do_today/2009/04/she-went-to-the-state-capitol-april-23-2009.html

    http://livinglocalnh.blogspot.com/2009/04/home-sweet-home-nh.html

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