Research funds improving food safety and protecting agriculture from dangerous pests as well as other agricultural research and promotion funds can no longer be used to plug holes in the state's budget. That's thanks to two bills signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
"Agriculture is one of Arizona's most important industries. Arizona agricultural products not only feed and clothe the nation but are shipped throughout the world," Brewer says. "These bills ensure Arizona agriculture will continue to be a significant part of our state's future."
Following controversial moves by the Arizona Legislature in the past where lawmakers swept agricultural funds to help offset state budget shortfalls. Western Growers, Irvine, Calif. worked to pass the two bills—Senate Bill 1233 and House Bill 2340. The money comes directly from the state's farmers and Western Growers members who produce fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, and who pay into the funds for research and promotional purposes in the form of assessments.
"These dollars are intended for farmers and raised by farmers. The money shouldn't be used to fill budget gaps to further irresponsible decisions," says Arizona Sen. Don Shooter (R-Yuma), sponsor of Senate Bill 1233. "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."
That's important for Arizona, where many of the nation's winter vegetables are grown. The two bills together protect funds like the Iceberg Lettuce Research Fund, the Citrus, Fruit and Vegetable Revolving Fund as well as the Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee fund to name some.
"These agricultural funds serve a public benefit, many improving food safety and making sure Arizona farmers can grow the healthy food that feeds the nation and the world. That's why under this legislation those funds will now be held in trust," says Arizona Rep. Russ Jones (R-Yuma), sponsor of House Bill 2340. "It was a great team effort by the industry, and pro-agriculture members of the state legislature, including the speaker, president, the state treasurer and the governor."