New legislation recently signed by Arizona governor Jan Brewer would protect agricultural research and promotional funds from being used to plug holes in the state budget, guaranteeing that farmers have access to needed marketing and scientific tools.
Over the past several years, in the wake of the larger economic recession, state governments across the country have experienced difficulty balancing their budgets. With federal stimulus money drying up, many states have taken to misappropriating funds earmarked for agricultural development to shore up holes in their budgets.
In Arizona, were these moves have been relatively common, this misappropriation is particularly troubling because the farmers themselves raised much of the money being confiscated. Research and promotional funds were raised by state farmers and by members of the farm advocacy group Western Growers through voluntary assessments. In response to these confiscations, Western Growers and other agricultural groups pushed for passage of legislation that would prevent the state government from appropriating these funds for non-agricultural use.
In the words of State Senator Don Shooter, the bill’s sponsor, “These dollars are intended for farmers and raised by farmers. The money shouldn’t be used to fill budget gaps to further irresponsible decisions. This legislation now makes it a law that agricultural trust funds are used for their intended purpose—to benefit agriculture. I told the boys in Phoenix, you guys call them ‘fund sweeps,’ but in Yuma we call that stealing.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer