LAO 2006-07 Budget Analysis: General Government

Analysis of the 2006-07 Budget Bill

Legislative Analyst's Office
February 2006

California Department of Food and Agriculture (8570)

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) provides services to both producers and consumers of California’s agricultural products in the areas of agricultural protection, agricultural marketing, and support to local fairs. The purpose of the agricultural protection program is to prevent the introduction and establishment of serious plant and animal pests and diseases. The agricultural marketing program markets California’s agricultural products and protects consumers and producers through the enforcement of measurements, standards, and fair pricing practices. Finally, the department provides financial and administrative assistance to county and district fairs.

The budget proposes expenditures of $285 million and 1,837 personnel-years in 2006-07 for the department, including $105 million from the Agriculture Fund and $92 million from the General Fund. The proposed General Fund expenditures are $8.3 million (10 percent) higher than estimated current-year expenditures, primarily due to a $7.2 million augmentation to address threats to food production. We discuss the threats to food production proposal in “Part V” of The 2006-07 Budget: Perspectives and Issues as part of the Governor’s efforts to address the state’s preparedness for emergencies. Below, we discuss two other proposed augmentations.

Shorten Pilot Program for Vehicle Inspections

The budget proposes a two-year pilot program to inspect private vehicles entering the state for agricultural pests. A one-year program should be sufficient to reassess the risk.

Background. From 1921 to 2003, private vehicles entering California were screened for compliance with federal and state agricultural laws in an effort to minimize the introduction of pests that might cause damage to agricultural crops or native plant species. Due to fiscal constraints, the department discontinued the private vehicle inspection program in 2003-04 at its 16 inspection stations. It was the department’s assessment that the private vehicle inspections were the department’s least effective method of controlling pests. Since that time, only commercial vehicles entering the state have been subject to inspections.

Proposal for Two-Year Pilot Program. The department proposes to conduct a two-year pilot program for private vehicles at the Needles inspection station. The objective of the pilot program is to reassess the risk of pests from private vehicles entering the state. Specifically, the department would add five limited-term inspectors to screen private vehicles, at a cost of $380,000 annually. Vehicles determined to present a high degree of risk would be physically inspected (for instance, trunk opened and coolers examined). The department estimates that one-third of vehicles would undergo such inspections.

Pilot Longer Than Necessary. The department reports that recent surveys it conducted at two stations suggest the lack of private vehicle inspections may be contributing to an increase in quarantined agricultural products entering the state. On the basis of these surveys, the department wants to conduct a longer pilot program. In view of the state’s long history with this program, one year should be sufficient to reassess the risk. We therefore recommend the Legislature approve a one-year pilot program and adopt supplemental report language declaring its intent.

No New Funding Needed for Hydrogen Fuels Standards

The budget proposes $174,000 in General Fund support to continue the development of interim hydrogen fuel standards. We recommend the Legislature reject this request, due to the availability of carryover funds from the current-year budget. (Reduce Item 8570-001-0001 by $174,000.)

Hydrogen Highway Funding. Existing law requires CDFA to adopt specifications for gasoline and other specified fuels for use in motor vehicles. Chapter 91, Statutes of 2005 (SB 76, Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review), assigns CDFA-in conjunction with the Air Resources Board (ARB)-the responsibility for establishing and adopting specifications for hydrogen fuels by January 1, 2008. Chapter 91 appropriates $6.5 million from the Motor Vehicle Account (MVA) to the ARB to fund the various activities related to hydrogen-powered vehicles until January 1, 2007. The ARB subsequently contracted with CDFA in 2005-06 for $370,000 to support the development of interim fuel standards.

Proposal. The department proposes $174,000 in General Fund support for continued efforts to develop interim fuel standards in 2006-07. This request would fund a limited-term staff chemist and consulting costs.

Delays Lead to Carryover Funds. Due to delays in implementing Chapter 91 in the current year, the department now estimates that only $61,000 of the current-year contract will be spent this year. The budget-year proposal fails to account for the $309,000 balance that will be available in 2006-07.

Upcoming Status Report. The Legislature intended for the hydrogen highway activities to be funded from the MVA. Moreover, the current-year appropriation was intended to fully fund activities through January 1, 2007. The ARB is required to report at that time on the status of program activities.

Recommend Rejection of Request. Given the large expected carryover balance and the upcoming status report, a request for additional funding is premature. We recommend the Legislature reject the request for $174,000 in General Fund spending. The department should use its carryover balance to fund its activities in 2006-07. Any future funding for this activity should come from the MVA.

Return to General Government Table of Contents, 2006-07 Budget Analysis