March 18, 2011
On Wednesday, March 16, 2011, the House Agriculture Appropriations committee held a hearing on the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget for USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) programs, featuring testimony by Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE).
In her written testimony, Dr. Woteki emphasized that although the proposed FY2012 NIFA budget would result in an overall cut, there will be budget increases to key programs that promote research in sustainable agriculture and conservation.
The proposed FY 2012 budget includes an increase of $10 million for the creation of a new Federal-State Matching Grant Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program to promote sustainable agriculture research, education, and extension work at the state level. An additional increase of $0.76 million is proposed to support research and education under SARE, plus training and education for Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other professional staff.
The FY 2012 budget proposes a total funding of $325 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which is a 24 percent increase of $62 million. AFRI is the largest of the NIFA competitive grants programs.
The budget for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) proposes a $4 million increase in research to promote crop resiliency to variable and extreme environments, as well as research on water management to maintain or increase water availability.
The proposed budget for ARS includes an increase of $10.6 million total to promote research on food safety in coordination with the Food Safety Inspection Service, including $1.4 million to research alternatives to antibiotics in livestock.
In addition to additional funding for research and education programs, the proposed budget includes an increase of $1.5 million to the National Agricultural Library (NAL) to develop comprehensive databases on environmental and sustainability issues. This would provide the greater science and research community access to datasets on carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions, tillage and land management studies, as well as conservation program benefits. A shared information system is critical for scientists and researchers when addressing issues involving sustainable agriculture practices, especially regarding adaptation to climate change.
Even while the Under Secretary was testifying on the FY 12 budget, Congress spent the week passing an additional $6 billion in cuts to the FY 11 budget, including a total REE cut of approximately $200 million. These reduced levels of research investments will be the starting point for congressional consideration of the FY 12 agricultural appropriations bill.