What looked bleak for soil and water conservation supporters when the Daniels budget was first announced turned out to be a favorable year when all the drama ended, and the Indiana General Assembly passed a budget for the next two years that both sides could agree upon. Originally, the budget released and sent to the legislature called for cutting out $500,000 per year from the Clean Water Indiana program.
This would not have bankrupted the program, since it also receives dedicated funding from the cigarette tax. However, it would have limited the amount of projects related to soil conservation and improvement of water quality, and would have reduced the number of projects some districts within the state might have been able to accomplish.
The Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, led by Ray McCormick, Vincennes, holds an annual legislative breakfast session with legislators each year. It's rated as one of the most successful of the legislative season for the number of legislators that it draws to the event. This year one theme throughout the room was the need to restore and maintain funding for Clean Water Indiana.
In the end, the funding was restored to '09 session levels of about $500,000 per year for the next two years. The dedicated cigarette tax potion that helps fund the Division of Soil Conservation within the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and other Clean Water Indiana activities was left alone. It brings in about $3.6 million annually for soil conservation.
Bob Kraft, legislative specialist for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., says that this was another example of how agriculture fared reasonably well, especially in the budget, in this session. Purdue Extension funding was also kept as line items instead of being rolled into the general Purdue budget. While hefty cuts were proposed, in the end those cuts were deleted and funding for Extension will be basically be funded at the '09 level. Purdue University College of agriculture Dean Jay Akridge was relieved. He issued a statement thanking supporters who talked to legislators, and urged them to thank legislators personally.
Akridge also noted that the push for the next budget session in 2013 is already underway. He hopes to build on successful Extension projects, and urges people to tell their legislators whenever something good happens in their area as a result of an Extension program effort.