House Committee Approves FY 2014 Agriculture Spending Bill
The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2014 Agriculture appropriations bill  on Thursday, June 13, via voice vote. According to current AAAS estimates, the bill would provide $1.9 billion for USDA R&D, though this does not include rangeland research at the Forest Service, which is appropriated in a different bill. The non-Forest Service components of the R&D budget would decline by $107 million, or 5.3 percent, below FY 2012 levels — though they would increase somewhat above post-sequestration FY 2013 estimates, by 2.6 percent. Factoring in inflation, overall USDA R&D would remain nearly flat from sequester levels. Basic and applied research funding, excluding the Forest Service, would decline by 5.8 percent from FY 2012 levels, and would represent a very small real-dollar decline from FY 2013 post-sequester estimates when adjusting for inflation. Total R&D would also fall well short of the President's request, by $284 million or 13 percent.
In historical terms, USDA R&D would continue its precipitous long-term decline under the House Committee bill. Removing the Forest Service, the bill would leave USDA R&D roughly 20.2 percent below funding levels from a decade ago in FY 2004.
One key bright spot in the bill is funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), particularly for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the department's lead office for competitive extramural research. Following a relatively successful FY 2013 appropriations outcome, AFRI would receive $291 million in the House Committee bill, significantly below the President's request of $383 million but still 10.1 percent above program funding in FY 2012.
While the Committee would generally trim funding for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the department's intramural research arm, the largest point of departure from the President's request is in the building and facilities account. ARS had intended to begin designing and constructing the long-gestating Biocontainment Laboratory and Consolidated Poultry Research Facility in Athens, GA, and requested $155 million for the project in FY 2014; it has sporadically received amounts of less than $3 million in prior years, as far back as 2005. The project is intended to upgrade the existing Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, adjacent to the Richard Russell Agricultural Research Center, both in Athens. These Biosafety Level-2 and -3 facilities, along with the related Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory in East Lansing, MI, perform poultry-related research in emerging diseases, viruses, and food safety. According to a facilities review ordered by Congress and the Secretary of Agriculture, the Athens facilities are among those in need of modernization, and have been prioritized. The House Committee declined to grant the requested funding due to the tough fiscal environment.