In reviewing Governor Walker's proposed 2019 budget, it took just a little digging to find the documents relating to the DOA. (Division of Agriculture) If you are adventurous, there are a number of pdf files available through the Department of Natural Resources webpage. These multi-page entries can be a bit tiring to sift through, we suggest the detail and the change record files as starting points. It is entirely likely that there is more data for the DOA on the DNR proposed budget list, since the manner in which these positions and departments and activities are funded is complex and can be confusing.
A few facts:
The DOA has, at the Southcentral Region offices, a total of 17 positions. According to their website as of December 27th, they currently have 3 vacant positions.
The DOA has, at the Palmer area Plant Materials Center, a total of 13 positions, 2 of which are vacant.
The DOA has, at the Northern Region office, 3 positions, of which one is vacant.
So that is 33 positions (sometimes known as PCNs, the short moniker assigned by the state) and of those, 6 vacant positions. On the surface, this appears as a reduction in personnel, a tightly run division where the public is still being served well. Again, the devil is in the details.
Departments and divisions jealously guard each and every PCN they have. The reason? There will hopefully come a time in the future when every position is fully funded. A fully funded organization can then plead the need for more PCNs to meet increased demand...and thus, government always grows, and never truly shrinks.
They can also simply decrement (love that guvspeak, don't you?) positions into new ones, by assigning the funding to a newly created or renamed PCN. In this way, the organization stretches into nooks and crannies of public service it was never meant to go.
In the 2019 proposed budget, the DOA intends to decrement and in the end, create two new positions (in addition to the job the closed earlier this week, presumably) The new position is called "the state veterinarian" Now, it is not clear whether this is literally a behind the scenes move to place the Office of the State Veterinarian (currently occupied by the exemplary Dr. Robert Gerlach at the Department of Environmental Conservation) or the creation of a new "state veterinarian" under the auspices of the DOA. We suspect the latter in this case. Dr. Gerlach has made clear in previous legislative sessions that he must and should remain at ADEC where his work can continue, he has excellent staff, and the support he needs to perform those duties.
This new "state veterinarian" will have "Development Specialist" for assistance. With what, exactly, is not explained in print. There is talk of livestock, and importing and exporting, but what the actual job duties are? Well that, friends...is one of those "the devil is in the details" things. Who knows? The funding for these two positions will come from a surplus in the Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund component.
However, one must not forget the Golden Boy's desire to mimic the Department of Agriculture in other states-nearly all of whom do have state veterinarians on staff. And one must not forget his desire to make the DOA a regular Department within state government.
To understand, even in part, of what this means for our livestock producers, one should keep this in mind:
The State of Alaska already has an Office of State Veterinarian.
That Office is already fully involved in one of the most pressing issues facing livestock producers, which is the Alaska Wild Sheep Foundations' continued efforts to make owning sheep and goats illegal within state borders. (And don't think the Board of Game sides with our protein growers-they do not. Look for the AWSF to push legislation in Juneau this coming session)
That Office already has excellent rapport with importers of livestock, a great working relationship with many Alaskans pursuing animal husbandry here in Alaska, and has experienced, trained staff at hand to perform inspections, etc.
Now, ask yourself this.....for what purpose would another "state veterinarian" serve the DOA? What regulation by pen would that person generate? Because you can be sure, that as soon as that person is on staff, the legislation for statutory authority to regulate will follow....because it's logical, if for no other reason.