On May 10, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved
its version of the FY 2001 Agriculture appropriations bill, which provides
funding for most of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The bill
goes to the Senate floor the week of May 15. The Senate bill would provide
$1.8 billion for USDA R&D in FY 2001, an increase of $54 million
or 3.1 percent over FY 2000 (see Table).
This would be $7 million less than the President's request. The House
Appropriations Committee approved its own version of the Agriculture
bill a day later (the AAAS R&D Funding Update on the House bill
will be available shortly).
Total USDA R&D funding of $1.8 billion (assuming the Forest
Service, in the Interior appropriations bill, receives R&D funding
equal to FY 2000) would be 3.1 percent above FY 2000, slightly above
the expected inflation rate of between 2.0 and 2.5 percent. While USDA's
intramural research would receive larger increases ahead of inflation,
most of USDA's other R&D programs, including its extramural research
grants, would fail to keep pace with inflation and would stay level
with FY 2000 funding. The Senate bill generally follows the outlines
of the President's request, but slashes the request for competitively
awarded research grants in favor of congressionally designated grants.
(For full details of the President's request for USDA R&D and full
information on USDA R&D programs, see Chapter
13 of AAAS Report XXV: R&D FY 2001).
The Senate bill would allow two mandatory (non-appropriated)
grants programs to spend its funds in both FY 2000 and FY 2001 despite
a long-running feud between the Appropriations Committees and the Agriculture
Committees in both the House and the Senate. The Initiative for Future
Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) was created in June 1998 as
a mandatory program to spend $120 million a year for five years on competitively
awarded grants for agricultural research, to be administered by USDA's
Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES).
The Appropriations Committees were upset that this program, created
by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, would take spending
decisions on agricultural research out of their jurisdictions, so they
blocked USDA from spending the first $120 million installment of these
funds in FY 1999. But because these funds were made available by law
for two years, the FY 1999 money became available in FY 2000. USDA earlier
this year announced requests for proposals for these funds, and barring
further congressional action the first grants should be distributed
this summer. Last year, Congress blocked the use of the FY 2000 funds
but again only for one year, so USDA anticipates that these FY 2000
funds will become available in October for the second round of grants.
Because USDA assumes that FY 1999 and FY 2000 funds will cover spending
in FY 2000 and FY 2001, the budget request proposed to defer the FY
2001 funds for a year. The Senate bill agrees to the request by blocking
the FY 2001 funds, but apparently allows the current grant process to
go forward and would also allow USDA to spend FY 2000 funds next year.
(To more accurately reflect when the money would be spent, the Table
shows $120 million in FY 1999 funds in the FY 2000 column and the FY
2000 funds in the FY 2001 columns.)
Similarly, the Fund for Rural America in the Office of the Secretary was reauthorized last June for five years, but FY 1999 funds were blocked by Congress and became available in FY 2000, while FY 2000 funds were also blocked but would become available in FY 2001. The Senate bill would block FY 2001 funds for this program but would allow other years' funds to be spent.
CSREES also administers appropriated research
grants programs. The National Research Initiative (NRI), the
existing competitive research grants program which IFAFS was
designed to supplement, would receive $121 million, only slightly higher
than $119 million in FY 2000 and well short of the $150 million request.
Instead, the Senate would direct funds toward Special Research Grants,
which would receive $62 million, slightly less than FY 2000 but
$56 million more than the request. These funds would go to 129 itemized
projects, all but five of which are for geographically specific congressionally
designated projects. The Senate bill also contains more than a dozen
other congressionally designated projects in other parts of the CSREES
budget. Most formula funding programs for academic R&D such as the
Hatch Act ($181 million, same as FY 2000) would receive level
funding. Total CSREES R&D would be $538 million, even with FY 2000.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) R&D
would total $951 million in FY 2001 in the Senate bill, an increase
of 5.0 percent. ARS funds intramural research through a nationwide network
of intramural laboratories and agricultural experiment stations. The
Senate bill would rearrange the President's request somewhat, by providing
less than requested for research programs but more than requested for
facilities funding to construct or renovate laboratory facilities.
The Agriculture bill now goes to the Senate floor, where its
spending levels are unlikely to encounter much opposition. But the Senate
bill carries several measures that could prove controversial and thus
delay or even block full Senate approval. Attached to the bill is the
Food and Medicine for the World Act, which would terminate existing
U.S. unilateral agricultural and medical sanctions for several nations,
most notably Cuba. Although U.S. farmers generally support the measure,
which would allow donations or sales of grain and other food to Cuba,
the measure could run into anti-Cuba opposition. Another provision in
the bill would force the Department of Justice to refund money received
from other agencies to engage in litigation against tobacco companies,
which could leave it with insufficient resources to continue the litigation.
The House version of the bill is expected to go to the House floor next
week, and if conference negotiations are peaceful then the Agriculture
bill may be one of the first FY 2001 bills to be signed into law.
- May 12, 2000
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005