For the Agricultural Research and Extension Service, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning approved a budget plan matching the governor’s recommendation for next year, including a $1 million boost in state general funds to replace one-time funds that have been exhausted and cover costs at the state’s 12 research and extension centers including heating and cooling of greenhouses, irrigation water, and purchasing fuel, fertilizer and seed. Overall, that’s a 3.5 percent increase from the current year, and leaves the service far below its 2009 funding level. The general fund budget for next year was set at $24.4 million; in 2009, it was $28.3 million. The service also now has 70 fewer employees than it had then.
“I think this is a minimum budget for this organization,” said Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace. Said Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, “I look at this as an economic investment for the state of Idaho.”