February 16, 2017
Since Oct. 1, 2,500 wildfires have burned 33,000 acres in Alabama.
Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposed General Fund (GF) and Education Trust Fund (ETF) budgets include level funding for agriculture and forestry.
The GF budget includes $400,000 to partially offset registration fees for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) says it would take $575,000 to fully fund the program.
Meanwhile, the governor’s GF budget includes $8.4 million for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, down $300,000 from the department’s request.
Proposed funding for the Alabama Forestry Commission is down $4 million from its request, at $6.7 million. Since 2011, GF appropriations for the Forestry Commission (AFC) are down $8 million or 55 percent. Interim State Forester Gary Cole said without additional funds, the commission will have to reduce staffing by at least 30 people.
Bills have been introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives to provide supplemental funding in the current fiscal year for AFC costs related to fall wildfires. SB 148 by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and HB 157, by Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, would provide an additional $550,000 for the Emergency Forest Fire Fund. South’s bill received a favorable report from the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. Pittman’s bill awaits action in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.
In the ETF budget, Gov. Bentley has proposed preserving $2 million for career technical education instructor supplements, $5 million for career tech operations and maintenance, and $4.1 million for the Career Tech Initiative and related programs, down from the requested $4.3 million.
The proposed ETF also includes level funding for rural medical programs at University of Alabama, Auburn University, University of Alabama Huntsville and Tuskegee University. Under the governor’s plan, funding also would remained basically unchanged for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance.