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Agriculture and WICO Share Their Projected Budgets With Finance Committee

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony from the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDOA), and the West Indian Company Limited on the FY 2019 budget appropriations.

VIDOA General Fund request is $4,013,625. The budget is a 12 percent reduction in comparison to the FY 2017 appropriation of $4,587,000. VIDOA is mandated to receive $500,000 due to Act No. 6836, the Agriculture Sustainable Act. The combination of the General Fund and the required monies totals the FY 2019 budget request for the General Fund to $4,513,625.

The budget breakdown is as follows: Personnel services and fringe benefits represent 85.5 percent and operating expenses is 14.4 percent. Additionally, VIDOA will also receive $1,000,000 from the Tourism Agriculture Revolving Fund. The Department anticipates Federal Funds totaling $339,262.

“Considering that there is a 12% reduction in the FY 2019 budget, how will it affect VIDOA?” asked Sen. Tregenza Roach. Carlos Robles, Commissioner of VIDOA, stated that Federal Funds allows the allocation to groups of farmers.  Sen. Vialet also inquired, “Did VIDOA receive contributions from the Casino Fund?” Delreese Brown, Director of Administration and Management at VIDOA stated that VIDOA received funds in the third quarter of FY 2018.

Post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria, VIDOA is collaborating with FEMA, VITEMA and Witt O’Brien to develop Project Worksheets to repair or replace the infrastructure, buildings, and equipment damaged because of the storms. Currently, the Department has eleven vacancies that are critical for operation. Despite challenges, VIDOA managed to meet with VINGN and the Department of Human Services to begin discussion on making wireless internet access for farmers markets throughout the Territory.

Sen. Roach inquired, “When can local farmers access SNAP Farmers Market Technology Program?” In response, Commissioner Robles said, “Internet access will allow the Dept. of Human Services and VIDOA to engage with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service for the installation of EBT card reading devices at each of the farmer’s markets.” VINGN has assessed the Bordeaux Farmer’s Market and is developing an implementation plan.

Separately, Clifford Graham, President, and Chief Executive Officer of the West Indian Company, Ltd. said that for FY 2019 the Miscellaneous Income projected at $141,368.

“However, no itemization was submitted to verify the dollar amount,” Graham said.

The FY 2019 budget is $4,375,074. The budget is an increase in comparison to the $3,281,854 appropriated for FY 2017.

Personnel, fringe and Capital Outlays are $1,575,000 for FY 2019. WICO’S Expenditures and projections are $13,978,640 for FY 2019. Some of their goals are to complete recovery work on the property, complete the FY 2018 Audit, and to finalize the acquisition of the Havensight Mall from GERS.

Clifford Graham of the West Indian Company, Ltd. testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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