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Ariz. Gets Green Light|to Redirect Farm Funds

(CN) - Arizona farmers can't block the governor from transferring agricultural funds to the state's general fund, the state Court of Appeals ruled.

To balance the budget in 2008, the state Legislature passed a bill that would transfer money from 104 state funds to the general fund. Three agricultural funds -- the Arizona Iceberg Lettuce Research Council Fund, the Arizona Grain Research Fund and the Arizona Citrus Research Council Fund -- were among those that the budget aimed to redirect.

The Arizona Farm Bureau Federation and three other agricultural groups sued Gov. Jan Brewer and State Treasurer Dean Martin. The Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council intervened as the fifth plaintiff.

A judge in Maricopa County ruled for the farmers, calling the transfer unconstitutional because the money was set aside for Arizona agricultural marketing purposes.

The state appeals court overturned the decision, finding that Arizona can transfer the funds legally since it is not holding the funds as a trustee or custodian.

"The statutory provisions at issue here limit how the councils can spend their money; they are not limits on the legislature's authority," Judge Patrick Irvine wrote.

He added: "Both a takings claim and a due process claim require first that (the farmers) possess a protectable property interest in the agricultural funds."

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