$58M in budget cuts, adjustments put agriculture services at risk, Farm Bureau says
The head of the Puerto Rico Farm Bureau raised a red flag over the adjustments and cutbacks of more than $58 million to Agriculture Department programs included in the Fiscal 2022 budget, which “put major farmer aid programs at risk.”
Bureau President Héctor I. Cordero-Toledo said information provided by the Administration for the Development of Agricultural Businesses (ADEA, in Spanish) confirmed that of the Agriculture Department’s $120 million budget in self-generated income and General Fund allocations, the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico approved just $6.4 million from the General Fund.
The agency would be left with the $56 million in self-generated funds, or about half of its budget.
“These significant changes put at risk the provision of services and products for the island’s farmers,” he said.
ADEA is the Agriculture Department’s operational arm, responsible for promoting public policy to support of farmers and ensure the stability of the farmer in their operations. ADEA is responsible for providing farmers with salary subsidies, fertilizer incentives, payment of Christmas bonuses, among other aid.
“This $58 million cutback means that all of the aid and support programs that farmers are entitled to for Fiscal 2022 cannot be offered,” Cordero-Toledo said.
For example, the wage subsidy program needs no less than $33 million, and employee bonuses about $5 million, to name a few, he said.
“In recent years, we’ve seen an ongoing reduction in ADEA funds, from $150 million in 2019 to a reduction of $20 million for a total of $130 million in 2021. For the 2022 Fiscal year, the resources available to ADEA are only $62 million. It’s worth saying that the agency’s income comes mostly from coffee program sales, so that money [is already assigned],” Cordero-Toledo said.
Farmers claim that the Oversight Board moved the $43 million from a General Fund allocation to an expense under the ADEA from self-generated funds that do not exist, leaving agricultural development in limbo.
As a result of this situation, only $12 million was distributed for salary reimbursement, agricultural investments, and other programs, which had a direct impact upon the dairy industry, especially milk producers.
Furthermore, Manuel E. Martínez-Arbona, head of the Farm Bureau’s dairy sector, said the sector is losing $12 million in incentives under the proposed budget.
“Twenty-five percent of the incentives are aimed at encouraging the production of the dairy industry at a farm level,” he said.
“This loss of incentives is equivalent to 6 cents of income to the farmer per quart of fluid milk sold and will aggravate the difficult situation caused by the double-digit increase in the costs of raw materials in livestock operations such as food and medicines, livestock, and labor,” he said.