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By Jean Caspers-Simmet

simmet@agrinews.com

DES MOINES — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said agriculture fared well during the 2007 legislative session. 

"Iowa’s legislators made the tough decisions and still adequately funded a variety of programs that will allow the department to continue its mission to support farmers and protect consumers," Northey said.

The 2008 budget that was approved included a $258,000 increase for the department’s Dairy Products Control Bureau to make its budget $951,666. The funds will help the bureau continue in its efforts to ensure the safety and quality of dairy products, Northey said.

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Legislators also included $130,000 for the Emergency Vets Rapid Response Services Program, $50,000 for the Emerald Ash Borer awareness program and $80,000 to hire a state apiarist to work with bee producers. 

The ag secretary will be a member of the board for the new $100 million Iowa Power Fund that was created, Northey said. The board will decide which renewable energy projects will receive funds.

The department will oversee the new "Farm to School" program, which is designed to link farmers with schools to provide students with fresh fruits and vegetables. Lawmakers allocated $80,000 to start the program. Lawmakers appropriated $54,671for a new organics specialist and $38,000 to purchase laptops for meat and poultry inspectors.

The responsibility for regulating wild and dangerous animals was given to the department. As of Jan. 1, 2008, new wild and dangerous animals are prohibited from being sold, bought or kept as pets.

In addition, feral swine are now classified as wild and dangerous animals. The department will be responsible for writing rules that regulate the dozen or so feral swine hunting preserves in Iowa.

There was a $90,000 increase for Department of Administrative Services lab fees at the Ankeny lab.

Soil and water conservation efforts received a $1.5 million increase for cost-share funds and a $1 million increase for agriculture drainage well closure.

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