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Budget Cuts Affecting State Department Of Agriculture, Services

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps announced Tuesday that due to the state's budget shortfall, she has been asked by Gov. Mike Easley to prepare budget reductions of 11 percent. Those cuts would mean cuts in positions, not just programs.

Phipps released a list of programs and jobs that could be targeted for cuts after July 1. The worst-case scenario for her department would mean a lot of pink slips.

As many as 43 people could loss their jobs, and 28 open positions would be cut. That is in addition to a loss of 31 positions this year. Other adjustments could come from increasing fees on everything from seed inspections to calibration for gas pumps.

Assistant State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Blanton said most people do not know about all of the different things the department handles.

"The fact of the matter is we touch every consumer in the state every day through things like inspecting gasoline to making sure that when you buy a gallon, you get a gallon," he said.

The cuts could impact the state's popular system of farmers' markets. Raleigh's Farmers' Market has already canceled this year's Easter celebration, and officials said the vendors could be affected.

"Eventually, we will have to pass it along to the farmer, which is the bottom line here," Raleigh Farmers Market manager Ronnie Best said. "The farmer comes here, rents space here to sell their products. It's one of the few places where a farmer can actually get what they are asking for their product."

If farmers have to pay more, they will likely pass the increases on to consumers.

The employees who may be let go learned about the cutbacks over the weekend.

Easley has asked each division of state government to make similar budgets proposals.


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