Manufacturing, Agriculture, and Climate Research Among FY18 Reductions

The Trump Administration would curb federal support for NIST lab and industrial R&D programs, USDA research funding, and NOAA's climate and environmental programs.

Note: This update is a continuation of our earlier coverage on DOE, NSF, and NASA.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (long funding table)

In the President’s budget, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) – USDA’s intramural research arm – would see a reduction of 29.2 percent below funding levels enacted in the FY 2017 omnibus. This includes a 15.2 percent or $177.9 million reduction for ARS’s primary research account, which would result in the closure of 17 laboratories and other worksites, representing nearly a fifth of all locations (see list at right). Ongoing projects in all areas would see some level of reduction or elimination, with particular reductions targeted at research programs in biobased products and biofuels (by at least 29.5 percent) and human nutrition (by at least 48.5 percent). In addition, the Administration recommends rescinding all budget authority for facilities construction granted by Congress in FY 2017. ARS had originally intended to use that funding for construction at the Agricultural Research Technology Center in Salinas, CA, and at Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Lab at Ft. Detrick, MD.[1]

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would see an 8.1 percent reduction below enacted omnibus funding. The Institute would keep the largest formula fund programs nearly flat in FY 2018, save for a $5 million or 15.0 percent reduction to McIntire-Stennis state forestry research (see table linked above). NIFA would also eliminate several smaller activities, including capacity grants at non-land grant universities, research programs on alfalfa, animal disease, and aquaculture, and multiple education programs. Sustainable agriculture grant funding would decline by at least 22.8 percent. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) , USDA's competitive extramural research program, would decline to $349.3 million in FY 2018, 6.8 percent below omnibus levels. The had Administration originally estimated a $349.3 million budget for AFRI in FY 2017 under a hypothetical full-year continuing resolution prior to completion of the omnibus, and thus proposed simply matching that estimate in FY 2018. The Administration would allow the small Biomass R&D Initiative, a mandatory multiagency program authorized through FY 2017 in the most recent farm bill, to expire.

The Economic Research Service would see an 11.6 percent reduction below omnibus levels in the request. Several work areas would see reductions, including program evaluation, analysis of drought resilience, bioenergy data modeling, and other data acquisition and access. While the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) would receive an overall 8.4 percent increase above omnibus levels, including a 5.6 percent reduction to NASS’ core statistical activities achieved by reducing the sample sizes of several survey series. These cuts would be offset by a more than 50 percent increase for Census of Agriculture funding, to $63.9 million in FY 2018.

The Forest Service’s Forest & Rangeland Research funding account would be reduced by 10.2 percent. Several research program areas would be affected, including invasive species, air quality research, clean water, and resource management. The Forest Service’s other fire-related R&D activities would be reduced by a similar amount, and efforts to understand the social and economic elements of wildfire would be terminated.

According to agency and historical data, total USDA R&D funding in FY 2018 would drop to its lowest point since 1989, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (long funding table)

NIST’s core research laboratories would take a substantial reduction in FY 2018, while the agency’s industrial services account would be nearly eliminated under the Trump Administration's request.

The Scientific and Technical Research Services (STRS) account, which funds NIST’s seven core research laboratories, would see a large $90 million or 13.0 percent cut below last year’s enacted level (see agency breakdown in chart at right). This would result in a 10 percent reduction in NIST’s scientific workforce, according to the agency request. The STRS cut would reduce funding for many program areas: advanced materials manufacturing, semiconductor measurements, cybersecurity, and quantum science, among other research topics. The budget would eliminate NIST’s extramural Fire Research Grants Program and the Nanomaterial Environment, Health, and Safety (nano-EHS) Program, which studies the potential environmental or health impacts of engineered nanomaterials such as silicon.

Within NIST’s Industrial Technology Services account, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) would be eliminated, with $6 million requested for MEP to cover costs associated with winding down the program. The MEP elimination would affect over 2,500 partners and approximately 9,400 client firms, according to agency budget documents. Manufacturing USA, formerly known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), would receive $15 million, a $10 million reduction from the enacted omnibus level.[2] NIST’s research facilities construction would be less impacted by the overall budget downsizing, with renovations set to continue for the Radiation Physics Building 245 on the Gaithersburg, MD headquarters.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (long funding table)

NOAA’s total discretionary budget would decrease by $900 million or 15.9 percent below last year’s enacted level.  Steep cuts would be levied on the National Ocean Service and climate, weather, and air chemistry research programs, as seen in the funding table linked above.

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), the primary research and development arm of NOAA, would face a steep 31.9 percent cut below FY 2017 enacted levels (see OAR breakdown in chart at right). A 19 percent cut to NOAA Climate Research would reduce funding for Cooperative Institutes, universities, NOAA laboratories, and other partners. The 25.4 percent proposed cut to NOAA Weather and Air Chemistry Research would terminate the Air Resources Laboratory, which studies air pollution and climate variability, and the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Office. The budget would also eliminate the Joint Technology Transfer Initiative, recently established to quickly transition the latest research into weather forecasting products, and Vortex-Southeast, an effort to better understand tornado formation in the U.S. Southeast. Funding for OAR’s Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Research Program would be cut by nearly half below last year's enacted level, with a proposed elimination of the National Sea Grant College Program.

For the National Ocean Service, the budget proposes terminating $23 million in federal support to states for the management of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, a network of 29 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems. Within the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) would see funding reductions in line with planned launch preparation activities, while the Polar Follow On (PFO), currently funded at $369 million, would be cut in half and a re-plan initiated to seek cost efficiencies and leverage partnerships. The National Weather Service’s Science and Technology Integration (STI) Office, which oversees weather forecasting modeling and research to operations transition programs, would see several program terminations. NOAA’s ship fleet recapitalization efforts would be flat-funded from the FY 2017 omnibus level of $75 million, which would support construction of a second NOAA Class A vessel for oceanographic research.

U.S. Census Bureau (long funding table)

The Census Bureau would receive a $51 million or 4.3 percent increase above the FY 2017 enacted level of $1.2 billion for periodic censuses and programs, which funds the Decennial Census. This comes amid rising cost concerns in preparing for the 2020 decennial census. The Census Bureau also conducts a range of monthly, quarterly, and annual surveys, including the American Community Survey, a source of detailed community-level information about employment, educational attainment, and other topics.


[1] Congress appropriated $100 million for Buildings and Facilities in the FY 2017 omnibus. However, the Administration assumed a full-year continuing resolution amount of $212 million. While the full amount officially recommended for rescission matches that larger estimate, the figures and tables above use $100 million as more reflective of the “true” intentions of the Administration’s request, which would keep some budget authority still available from prior years for construction in place.

[2] Note that related manufacturing innovation institutes funded through the Department of Energy would be eliminated under the FY 2018 request.