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Agriculture: Research Funds Are Down

by Britt E. Erickson
February 28, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 9

The Department of Agriculture’s research budget would take a hit under the 2012 budget request. USDA would receive $2.8 billion for agricultural R&D, a decrease of $228 million, or 7.6%, compared with the 2011 continuing resolution.

Four agencies within USDA have jurisdiction over agricultural research: the National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA), the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and the Economic Research Service (ERS).

NIFA, which funds extramural research, would see its 2012 budget shrink to $1.4 billion, a decrease of $122 million, or 8.2%, compared with the 2011 estimates. The cuts are directed at $141 million in earmarks and a few selective programs.

However, funding for NIFA’s Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the primary competitive research grants program at USDA, would rise to $325 million, an increase of $63 million, or 24.0%, compared with 2011. Priorities for AFRI include research on feedstocks for biofuel production, adapting agriculture to climate change, food security and food safety, and obesity prevention.

ARS, which conducts in-house research in agricultural sciences, would see its budget decrease to $1.2 billion in 2012, a loss of $113 million, or 8.9%. The cuts are directed at low-priority programs and $42 million in congressional earmarks. ARS plans to continue investing in food safety, improving the efficiency of converting agricultural products into biofuels, developing alternatives to antibiotics in food animals, and enhancing the ability of agriculture to adapt to climate change.

Agricultural statistics would get a slight boost in 2012. NASS is slated to receive $165 million, a $3 million, or 1.9%, increase compared with 2011. The NASS budget includes $11 million for new initiatives, $8 million of which comes from the elimination of duplicate and low-priority ­programs.

ERS—the agency responsible for providing economic and other social science information about agriculture, food, and the environment—would also get an increase in 2012 under the proposed budget. ERS would receive $86 million, a $4 million, or 4.9%, increase compared with 2011.



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