As Storm Clouds Darken Farm Revenue Projections, SoAR Foundation Applauds Funding Increase for USDA’s Flagship Competitive Science Program Proposed by House Subcommittee
WASHINGTON DC (July 8, 2020)—The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation welcomes the proposed $435 million in FY2021 funding for the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) that was included in legislation considered by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.
As the USDA’s flagship competitive grants program for agricultural research, AFRI uses a rigorous peer-reviewed process to recommend funding for the best research. The program is authorized at $700 million, but is currently funded at $425 million annually, leaving crucial research unfunded.
“The COVID-19 economic downturn has hit farmers even harder than the erratic weather patterns of the past few years,”said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation. “With so many variables to contend with, farmers need new innovations so that their operations can continue to feed the country—and the world. This proposed increase illustrates the commitment by Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Fortenberry, and their fellow subcommittee members to help provide the resources needed to find long-term innovation solutions for our farmers.”
Before the pandemic, USDA projected net farm income to only increase 1.4% when adjusted for inflation—30.5% below the peak reached in 2013. But this spring, COVID-19 has further clouded the financial outlook for farmers. Now, farmers face estimated losses of more than $20 billion this year, after 2019 saw a 20% increase in family farm bankruptcies.
According to the USDA, AFRI-supported research on plant breeding is helping develop new cultivars for many critical crops. Fifteen percent of U.S. wheat acreage is planted using cultivars resulting from AFRI investments. AFRI investments have also produced new diagnostic methods for animal diseases, genetic resources for row crops and livestock, and alternatives to antimicrobials used to prevent disease in livestock, all of which have helped U.S. farmers remain competitive in the global marketplace.
Senate Budget Provides Welcome Boost for Agricultural Research
WASHINGTON, DC (September 20, 2019)—The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation applauded the US Senate Appropriations Committee for advancing a Fiscal Year 2020 budget that included a $10 million increase for the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) flagship competitive research program.
“Only cold hard science can generate the innovation needed to smooth out the continued turbulence that the agricultural sector faces,” said Thomas Grumbly, President of the SoAR Foundation. “Between freak storms and fierce floods, along with unstable commodity markets and food safety outbreaks, farmers need new and more effective ways of handling intensifying problems. We welcome the bipartisan embrace of food and farm science.”
The Senate FY2020 budget for the USDA would boost the budget for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to $425 million, joining the House and Executive budgets in expanding the program’s scope. AFRI, which provides funding through a rigorously peer-reviewed process, is currently authorized at $700 million but has never received this full amount during the annual appropriations process. With a limited annual budget, the program typically provides funding to less than a quarter of the science that the program’s expert panels deem worthy.
U.S. House Approves FY 2020 USDA Budget with Proposed Increases in Research Funding
WASHINGTON, DC—The USDA FY 2020 appropriations bill passed by the House of Representatives on June 25, 2019, includes substantial proposed increases for agricultural research, including a $45 million increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The House budget also boosts capacity programs such as Hatch, McIntire-Stennis, Research and Extension at 1890's, and Smith-Lever extension.
In addition to AFRI, the following competitive programs would increase: Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Food Safety Outreach Program, Organic Transition Program, and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
Click here to access a chart comparing the House's FY 2020 proposed NIFA funding to prior year funding and the president's FY 2020 budget requests.
The next step in the congressional appropriations process is for the Senate to approve of its own USDA budget bill, likely in September 2019. Once passed, the Senate and House will work together to develop legislation to be passed by both chambers for the president to sign into law. Although the current fiscal year ends on September 30, 2019, Congress is expected to pass a "continuing resolution" to extend the budget deadline.
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