Bug station layoffs may be put on hold | SierraSun.com

Bug station layoffs may be put on hold

Paul Raymore, Sierra Sun

Josh MillerA driver goes through the agriculture inspection station on I-80 in Truckee. Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget proposal may save jobs at the station, and others like it along California's border.

For inspectors at Truckee’s agricultural inspection station, or “bug station” as it is commonly known, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for the 2004-2005 budget year should contain some welcome news.

As reported by the Sierra Sun in November 2003, 52 of the state’s 128 inspectors were slated to be laid off this month as the California Department of Food and Agriculture was scheduled to close 11 of the 16 border inspection stations throughout the state. The scheduled closures were the result of budget cuts forced upon the department due to the budget problems facing California.

However, according to Steve Lyle, director of public affairs for the CDFA, “as part of the governor’s proposed budget for 04-05, the Department of Food and Agriculture has been given the flexibility to move $4.5 million from local assistance programs to fund all 16 border inspection stations.”

The $4.5 million will come from money that otherwise would have gone to counties for local pest exclusion programs.

The flexibility enjoyed by the CDFA under the Governor’s proposed budget will mean that none of the current agricultural inspectors will lose their jobs, Lyle said.

While the Truckee inspection station was not on the CDFA’s list of facilities scheduled for closure, local inspectors would have felt the effects.

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Because the CDFA gives priority to inspectors with the most seniority statewide, as many as 13 of the current 16 Truckee inspectors may have been forced out as inspectors with more seniority came from other inspection stations to the Truckee facility.

The total operating budget for the 16 border inspection stations is a little less than $9 million annually, which is money that local inspector Gary Cox believes is being well spent.

“I don’t feel closing any of these bug stations right now is justified based on the cost of an infestation,” Cox said earlier when he first got word of the possible closure of 11 of the 16 inspection stations.

Steve Lyle is pleased that the closure won’t have to happen. “We are committed as an agency, and our secretary is committed, to keeping the (CDFA’s) infrastructure whole; and these inspection stations are the first line of defense and are critical,” he said.

According to Lyle, the bug stations were saved because Governor Schwarzenegger “recognizes the role agriculture plays in the lives of all Californians and thus gave us the flexibility to protect the infrastructure that this agency has in place to protect against infestations.”

The CDFA currently has no plans to resume its inspections of passenger vehicles entering the state, instead choosing to focus on RVs and commercial trucks which pose a greater threat of transporting enough pests to start a major infestation.