Dept. of Agriculture Waits on Governor to Approve 2019 Budget, Puts Focus on Water Quality

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is asking Governor Reynolds for money to finally pass a water quality project next year.

Reynolds has said the water quality initiative is her number one priority in 2018, but state budget issues could change that priority.

The department delivered its 2019 fiscal budget to Governor Reynolds, asking for almost $43 million, which is nearly identical to their 2018 request--all except for one line item.

“The only new request we will have is for foreign animal disease preparedness. This last year, we received $100,000 for the first time for that and we are going to ask for an additional $150,000 for a total request of $250,000," the department's secretary Bill Northey said.

That's a nearly 1% increase on the total budget.

The $150,000 more, the department says, will go to developing emergency response plans and other resources to protect farmers from disease outbreaks like the bird flu Iowa farmers experienced back in 2015.

“Recognizing that the budget is very tight and we might even see a retention on the current budget for this fiscal year," Northey said.

Approving the budget allocates nearly $10 million to the Iowa water initiative, the details of which are currently unknown.

“I am hoping it's my first bill that I get to sign as governor of the state of Iowa," Governor Reynolds said.

But that bill must still pass the House and Senate. In the meantime, the department's concern is approving the budget so it can focus on employee retention.

“We decided we wanted to be able to go with a flat budget. That may cause us to be slightly smaller in number of employees next year than what we have right now, but we will be able to manage that," Northey said.