To the NASULGC System:
- Board on Agriculture Assembly
- Budget and Advocacy Committee
- Council on Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching
- Council on Governmental Affairs
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry unanimously approved today a new five-year Farm Bill, clearing the way for debate in the full Senate. Included among the major provisions was a strong “Research Title” embracing many of the central precepts of the CREATE-21 proposal and including the majority of the land-grant system’s suggested enhancements to current law.
A major shortcoming in the Senate Farm Bill is the diversion to other uses of $200 million per year in mandatory (not subject to annual appropriations) funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) for the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) program in fiscal years 2010 to 2012.
As you know, the IFAFS program was designed to provide a major funding stream to the university community to support innovative projects which integrate research with extension and/or education. Although funding for IFAFS in recent years has been “captured” (through budgetary adjustments) by either the White House Office of Management and Budget, or the congressional appropriations or agriculture committees, in F.Y. 2000 - F.Y. 2001 $240,000,000 was provided to the land-grant system via IFAFS, and the system has fought hard for a full restoration of these funds beginning in fiscal year 2010. We were successful in the House of Representatives, and full IFAFS funding was included in H.R. 2419, the 2007 Farm Bill approved by the House on July 27.
NASULGC president Peter McPherson summed up our position on the IFAFS situation in a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). McPherson’s letter, released on the eve of the markup, says in relevant part:
“[Our primary] reservation with respect to the bill concerns the diversion of $200 million per year in mandatory funding that would otherwise be available to the land-grant system through the existing Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) program. While we are appreciative of the authorizations provided for the new organics and specialty crops research programs, we remain extremely supportive of the broad-based IFAFS funding and hope that this authority can be restored before the Farm Bill is enacted into law.”
The CREATE-21 proposal — as embodied in H.R. 2398 (introduced in the House by Rep. John Barrow) — had three major provisions to: (1) create a new National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve USDA science agency coordination and efficiency; (2) double authorized funding for food, agriculture, and natural resources research, education, and extension at USDA over a seven-year period; and (3) enhance numerous research, extension, and education programs sought by NASULGC member institutions.
The Senate version of the Farm Bill embraces many elements of the NIFA concept, creating a new USDA science agency reporting to the Secretary of Agriculture and including all of the research, teaching, and public outreach programs and activities currently managed by CSREES.
The new NIFA would have four program offices: (1) Agriculture Research, Extension, and Education Network (embracing all existing land-grant “capacity” programs, including those where funds are distributed by formula); (2) Competitive Programs for Fundamental Research; (3) Competitive Programs for Applied Research; and (4) Competitive Programs for Education and Other Purposes. The NIFA director would have the discretion to divide programs that intersect more than one competitive program office.
In addition, the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics at USDA would be required to coordinate the programs of NIFA with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and prepare an annual report to Congress detailing such coordination. The Under Secretary would also be tasked with preparing a “roadmap” for agricultural research to identify major opportunities and gaps in agricultural research, extension, and education, and to use this roadmap to set the research agenda and frame the budgetary requests for the USDA.
Also, the BAA leadership has identified some structural problems concerning the relationship of the NIFA Director to the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics that may need to be addressed during the House-Senate conference.
Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not provide the significant funding increases that are so critically needed by the land-grant system. Although the bill provides $32 million per year in mandatory funding for new specialty crops and organics research programs ($16 million each) and authorizes “such sums as may be necessary” (above current programmatic authorizations) to help NIFA meet the “opportunities and gaps” identified in the new roadmap, the legislation does not include the $200 million per year in mandatory (not subject to annual appropriations) funding contained in current law and retained in CREATE-21 and the House-passed version of the Farm Bill.
The full Senate plans to take up the Farm Bill within the next few weeks, perhaps as early as next week. After the Senate has approved its bill, a joint House-Senate conference committee will be impaneled to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the legislation. Since the Farm Bill remains a top legislative priority, we expect continued action in the next few weeks. Please be alert for additional requests from the leadership of NASULGC’s CREATE-21 / Farm Bill Committee as we work to influence the final version of the 2007 Farm Bill. We will, of course, be working to protect the good progress we have collectively made thus far and to improve the bill in conference.
The Cornerstone Team