What is in this article?:
- Don Butler, 88, retires after 66-year career in Western agriculture; the last decade as director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture.
- Butler, an Arizona rancher, counseled two U.S. presidents on agricultural issues and provided guidance to numerous state and national agricultural organizations.
Food safety job one
Another top ADA priority for Butler was food inspection. The agency’s livestock division was understaffed yet charged with mandatory slaughterhouse inspections, milk inspections, and other related services.
Butler also worked to create a better and more efficient produce inspection program for ADA inspectors. The agency moved its inspection of produce grown in Mexico headed to the U.S. from the Mexico side of the border just across the international border near Nogales, Ariz. This helped decrease inspection costs.
There has not been a single food safety recall in Arizona on Butler's watch.
Butler discussed the joint cooperation between the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and ADA over the years. He noted how the two agencies responded after an outbreak of e. coli O157:H7 in California-grown spinach in 2006 which sickened 71 people in five states.
The California leafy greens industry, CDFA, and others developed a leafy green marketing agreement (LGMA) program designed to create a safer supply of leafy greens. ADA followed suit with a similar LGMA program.
One of the biggest challenges Butler faced during his tenure has been decreased funding of the agency. The Great Recession and related funding cuts from the federal government and elsewhere have taken a heavy toll on the ADA’s coffers.
The ADA had 300 employees when Butler came on board. Today, the number is about 240; a 20-percent reduction in the last decade.
“We are doing more with less,” Butler said.
The ADA budget is about $25 million dollars. About two-thirds come from the federal government, fees, and grants. The remaining third ($8 million) is from state taxpayers.
The ADA budget today is less than the department’s budget in 1991.