March 10, 2011
Earlier this week the food and agricultural research community issued appeals to Congress urging that already low funding for USDA-sponsored research, education and extension not be cut. The letters came in response to the House-passed continuing resolution to fund all government functions for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
The House bill, H.R. 1, would cut agricultural research funding by $415 million. The Senate counter-offer makes substantially smaller cuts, and actually modestly increases funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The Senate bill also continues funding for the Organic Farming Transitions research program, which the House bill proposed to terminate.
On Tuesday, March 8, the AFRI Coalition, of which NSAC is a founder, wrote to both houses of Congress in support of the Senate bill’s $17.5 million proposed increase in AFRI funding, to $280 million total, and in opposition to the House bill’s $35 million decrease to the program. The letter, noting the estimated 53 percent rate of return on public agricultural research investments, was signed by 35 organizations, including NSAC, Rodale Institute, Crop Science Society of America, Federation of Animal Science Societies, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
On Wednesday, March 9, the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research sent a letter, to which NSAC is also a signatory, supporting the total funding levels for agricultural research in the Senate bill, calling it “a responsible level of commitment that is sensitive to current budgetary challenges,” and opposing the draconian cuts in H.R. 1. The letter was signed by more than a dozen major universities plus farm groups, scientific societies, and individual deans of agriculture schools.
Yesterday, the Senate voted on both bills, but neither obtained a majority of the votes, much less the super-majority of 60 votes that would be needed to pass the continuing resolution. Negotiations are continuing but are viewed as unlikely to reach a conclusion prior to the expiration of the current short-term continuing resolution on March 18, necessitating yet another short-term extension bill to be considered next week.