In a move that is sure to rile some state lawmakers, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has filed a budget amendment that would take $3 million from the Department of Agriculture’s “Farm Calendar” and put it towards the University of South Florida’s School of Pharmacy, to help offset deep cuts to the university in the proposed budget.

As it is written, the amendment to the General Appropriations bill would “transfer $3 million recurring general revenue from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Water Policy Coordination to the University of South Florida School of Pharmacy.”

Via Greg Giordano, Fasano’s chief legislative aide:

The current fiscal year budget included $4 million for the creation of a program to monitor soil, water content, etc. An additional $4 million was appropriated to create a “Farm Calendar” which makes this soil information available to farmers. The strange thing about this appropriation is that the Commissioner of Agriculture did not ask for it. Farmers don’t want it. In fact, nobody has come forward to claim responsibility for the appropriation. In the budget we are working on right now (2012-13) $3 million has been appropriated to maintain this soil program for the Farm Calendar. Senator Fasano sees this program that nobody wants as a perfect opportunity to shut down a program that is not needed (at least as far as we know) and as a way to help fund the USF shortfall, thus the amendment.

Overall, the Florida Senate’s proposed budget calls for a $400 million total cut to the state’s university system, more than $100 million of which would come directly from USF. Last week, state lawmakers killed a plan that would have held back $25 million from the school next year. Some legislators, however, are still concerned that the school could face a cut of nearly 44 percent — a significantly higher number than any other state university.

Lawmakers worry that USF is being targeted until the university hands over all of its USF Polytechnic property.

Senate budget chairman J.D. Alexander has made it his priority to turn USF’s Lakeland campus into the state’s 12th public university, but that move has been met with fierce opposition from Alexander’s fellow lawmakers.

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