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Senate Echoes House, Cuts Agricultural R&D

The FY 2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill was approved by the Senate Committee yesterday (S. 1800). The Senate echoed the House in rejecting the Administration’s proposed boosts for the two main R&D agencies at USDA: the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Senate appropriators provided flat funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), USDA’s lead competitive research program. While the Administration is seeking $2.9 billion, or a 17.9 percent increase above FY 2015 funding levels, for USDA R&D in FY 2016, current AAAS estimates suggest Senate appropriators will trim USDA R&D by 1.6 percent (see funding table).

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Senate appropriators offer no funding in FY 2016 for construction of new USDA facilities. The Administration had requested $113.7 million to complete design and construction of the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, GA, as well as additional funding for other facilities. While the House provided a flat appropriation, the Senate would completely eliminate funding in the buildings and facilities account.

Lastly, the Forest Service is an agency of USDA, but is funded through a different appropriations bill – the Interior and Environment bill – which was recently pulled from the House floor due to conflict over amendments dealing with the Confederate flag. That bill proposes significant cuts to the agency's Forest and Rangeland Research account.

An amendment proposed by Jeff Merkley (D-OR) would have increased funding across various programs in the Agriculture bill, but it was turned down.

The Agriculture bill is among the last remaining to pass through Committee stage, though it is highly unlikely to be considered by the full Senate chamber due to the Democratic filibuster on appropriations.

Cover image credit: USDA Flickr