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Agriculture Department and Nurse Licensure Board Testify for Funding

Aug. 1, 2008 — Senate Finance Committee members heard budget testimony Friday from the leadership of the V.I. Department of Agriculture and the V.I Board of Nursing Licensure.
The department's budget is projected at $4.4 million, with $3.6 million allocated by the governor's recommendation from the General Fund, just shy of a six-percent increase over last year's figure.
However, the department also receives money from the Agriculture Revolving Fund, which for FY 2009 is projected at $130,000. Federal support is anticipated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The territory's ag department expects to lose some federal support by the end of the year when funding for the Tropical Bont Tick Eradication Program is expected to expire. The tropical bont tick infests cattle and other livestock, and can even be found on humans. The tick bites can become septic and also brings a number of associated diseases. For more information about the parasite, click here.
Losing the federal funds does not mean that the eradication program will come to an end.
In anticipation of the loss of the federal funds, the department requested $415,000 from the Miscellaneous Fund.
"This is an important program in the territory, specifically in St. Croix," testified Agriculture Commissioner Louis E. Petersen Jr. "We lobbied to ask the [U.S.] secretary of agriculture to continue the program until end of year."
Petersen's budget also included $259,910 to fill department vacancies. Some of this funding will go to hire new positions within the department: two associated with the bont tick program, one new butcher for St. Croix's abattoir and two property managers for leased farmland, as well as a receptionist.
The department will also help fund animal-welfare organizations throughout the territory, with funding totaling $215,000.
Funding animal-welfare organizations is an easy part of his job, Petersen said, since the management of those programs is all performed privately.
The department is also stepping up its marketing activities, including a new television program called "Fresh From the Farm," to encourage farming and gardening activities in the territory. The program will be launched this month, Petersen said.
The department also has a campaign to increase local production and consumption of local commodities. Called Buy Local, Eat Fresh, the program will allow small-scale farmers access to grading and sorting equipment purchased several years ago but never brought online.
Petersen could not say exactly how much land in the territory is devoted to agriculture.
"We have not been good record keepers," Petersen said. "We have to be more serious about our industry."
Indeed, some senators were already taking the industry more seriously with regard to the territory's economic security. With the cost of imported food being driven by ever-rising fuel prices, the local cost of living has also spiraled, making the department's emphasis on buying local more economical than ever for residents.
"The situation may become troubling in the future, with the importation of food, [driving] the cost of living," Sen. Ronald Russell said.
In the afternoon, senators heard testimony from the V.I. Board of Nurse Licensing.
Territorial Executive Director Diane Ruan-Viville asked for an increase over the governor's recommended budget.
Advocating strongly for increases in staff salaries and for one new position, Ruan-Deville said that salary increases amounting to $96,242 were needed to bring the compensation for the board's staff in line with their responsibilities.
"The governor submitted $191,691 [from the Miscellaneous Fund] plus $148,125 [from the Nurse Licensure Revolving Fund] — is that sufficient to make the changes that you want in terms of personnel?" Davis asked.
"No, that is not sufficient," Ruan-Viville responded.
If salaries had increased progressively, the request wouldn't look so significant, Nelson said after the hearing.
"It's fair compensation for the work that is done," Nelson said. "They have a lot of experience. I will lobby my colleagues for funds for the request that they are asking."
Senators in attendance for Friday's hearing were Nelson, Davis, Juan Figueroa Seville, Russell and James Weber.
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Aug. 1, 2008 -- Senate Finance Committee members heard budget testimony Friday from the leadership of the V.I. Department of Agriculture and the V.I Board of Nursing Licensure.
The department's budget is projected at $4.4 million, with $3.6 million allocated by the governor's recommendation from the General Fund, just shy of a six-percent increase over last year's figure.
However, the department also receives money from the Agriculture Revolving Fund, which for FY 2009 is projected at $130,000. Federal support is anticipated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The territory's ag department expects to lose some federal support by the end of the year when funding for the Tropical Bont Tick Eradication Program is expected to expire. The tropical bont tick infests cattle and other livestock, and can even be found on humans. The tick bites can become septic and also brings a number of associated diseases. For more information about the parasite, click here.
Losing the federal funds does not mean that the eradication program will come to an end.
In anticipation of the loss of the federal funds, the department requested $415,000 from the Miscellaneous Fund.
"This is an important program in the territory, specifically in St. Croix," testified Agriculture Commissioner Louis E. Petersen Jr. "We lobbied to ask the [U.S.] secretary of agriculture to continue the program until end of year."
Petersen's budget also included $259,910 to fill department vacancies. Some of this funding will go to hire new positions within the department: two associated with the bont tick program, one new butcher for St. Croix's abattoir and two property managers for leased farmland, as well as a receptionist.
The department will also help fund animal-welfare organizations throughout the territory, with funding totaling $215,000.
Funding animal-welfare organizations is an easy part of his job, Petersen said, since the management of those programs is all performed privately.
The department is also stepping up its marketing activities, including a new television program called "Fresh From the Farm," to encourage farming and gardening activities in the territory. The program will be launched this month, Petersen said.
The department also has a campaign to increase local production and consumption of local commodities. Called Buy Local, Eat Fresh, the program will allow small-scale farmers access to grading and sorting equipment purchased several years ago but never brought online.
Petersen could not say exactly how much land in the territory is devoted to agriculture.
"We have not been good record keepers," Petersen said. "We have to be more serious about our industry."
Indeed, some senators were already taking the industry more seriously with regard to the territory's economic security. With the cost of imported food being driven by ever-rising fuel prices, the local cost of living has also spiraled, making the department's emphasis on buying local more economical than ever for residents.
"The situation may become troubling in the future, with the importation of food, [driving] the cost of living," Sen. Ronald Russell said.
In the afternoon, senators heard testimony from the V.I. Board of Nurse Licensing.
Territorial Executive Director Diane Ruan-Viville asked for an increase over the governor's recommended budget.
Advocating strongly for increases in staff salaries and for one new position, Ruan-Deville said that salary increases amounting to $96,242 were needed to bring the compensation for the board's staff in line with their responsibilities.
"The governor submitted $191,691 [from the Miscellaneous Fund] plus $148,125 [from the Nurse Licensure Revolving Fund] -- is that sufficient to make the changes that you want in terms of personnel?" Davis asked.
"No, that is not sufficient," Ruan-Viville responded.
If salaries had increased progressively, the request wouldn't look so significant, Nelson said after the hearing.
"It's fair compensation for the work that is done," Nelson said. "They have a lot of experience. I will lobby my colleagues for funds for the request that they are asking."
Senators in attendance for Friday's hearing were Nelson, Davis, Juan Figueroa Seville, Russell and James Weber.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.