Layoff notices have gone out to 17 employees in the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries with more to come.

Agriculture & Industries Commissioner John McMillan met personally with several laid-off employees and plans to meet with more.

“Since coming into this office in January, we have been candid and open with employees that the Department of Agriculture & Industries is in poor fiscal health,” McMillan said. “We live in extraordinary times when government at all levels is low on funding. Our situation is no different.”

With 15 percent proration, McMillan said Agriculture & Industries’ share of the General Fund means a cut of $2.3 million immediately. The Department faces another $4.7 million cut for the 2012 fiscal year.

“It’s deeply troubling, but we have had no other choice but to reduce staff,” McMillan said. “The 17 employees are the first round of reductions. There will be more layoffs and a third round soon thereafter.”

Laid-off employees will be on the Department payroll through April.

“We further anticipate passage of furlough legislation that will enable us to minimize the number of layoffs in 2012 while meeting our budget obligations,” McMillan added.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries is responsible for protecting the safety of the state’s food supply and is the regulatory agency for the state’s $5 billion agriculture and agribusinesses industries.