No. 9 · May 13, 2008

FARM BILL CONFERENCE COMPLETE

To Members of the NASULGC System:
- Board on Agriculture Assembly
- Farm Bill Committee
- Budget and Advocacy Committee
- Council on Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching
- Council on Governmental Affairs

The House and Senate conferees on the Farm Bill have concluded their deliberations and the conference report will soon be considered in both chambers. The bill will then be enrolled and sent to the President for his signature or veto. This report describes the final outcome on those provisions of interest to NASULGC’s Board on Agriculture Assembly.

National Institute for Food and Agriculture. The conferees agreed with NASULGC’s suggestion to increase the standing and visibility of USDA's extramural science programs by reconstituting the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) as the "National Institute for Food and Agriculture" (NIFA). NIFA will assume all of the authorities, duties, and responsibilities of the former CSREES.

The NIFA director will be a distinguished scientist nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a six-year term with the option for a second six-year reappointment. The director will report to the Secretary or his "designee." The director will manage NIFA in coordination with the Under Secretary, implement the extramural components of the "Road Map" created by the Under Secretary, and create and organize offices for basic and applied research, extension, and education.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The agency’s flagship competitive grants program – currently called the National Research Initiative – will be renamed the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Funding for the AFRI will be authorized at $700 million per year, with 60 percent of appropriated funds going to basic research and the remaining 40 percent to applied research programs. Within the total funding for AFRI, a minimum of 30 percent must be for integrated projects (those that integrate research with extension and/or teaching), thereby providing a newly elevated role for extension and education within AFRI.

Strengthened Under Secretary. The REE Under Secretary will become the USDA's "Chief Scientist" and retain jurisdiction over the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). However, to ensure greater collaboration among these agencies and NIFA, the Under Secretary will have an expanded staff to be housed within a new "Research, Extension, and Education Office" (REEO). The REEO will have six divisions each led by a qualified division chief reporting to the Under Secretary:

Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment.
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health.
Plant Health and Production.
Animal Health and Production and Animal Products.
Agriculture Systems and Technology.
Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities.

The REEO will include no more than 30 positions to be filled from and financed by ARS, ERS, and NIFA. (In other words, there will be no increase in bureaucracy or budgetary expense.) The division chiefs will serve four year terms and assist the Under Secretary in programmatic planning and elimination of administrative duplication.

USDA Science Road Map. The Under Secretary will be charged with preparing an annual "Road Map" to guide all of the USDA science agencies. The Road Map will be sent to the Secretary where he/she alone will have the authority to make changes before the document is submitted to Congress. The Road Map will place emphasis on competitive programs and efforts to strengthen the small 1862, 1890, and 1994 land-grant institutions and the non-land-grant colleges of agriculture. The initial Road Map must be submitted within one year of enactment and updated annually thereafter.

Budget Submission. The conferees also adopted most of NASULGC's recommendations with respect to budget development for NIFA and the other USDA science agencies:

  Single Budget Line Item. The President’s annual budget submission to Congress will contain "a single budget line item" reflecting the total amount requested for research, education, and extension activities for that and the preceding five years.
  Critical Base Funding Levels. The "capacity program critical base funding level" (defined as the FY 2006 level for certain CSREES "capacity programs") is established. The "competitive program critical base funding level" (defined as the FY 2006 level for certain CSREES "competitive programs") is also established.
Capacity Funding Emphasis.  Above the "capacity program critical base funding level," budgetary emphasis should be placed on enhanced funding for the 1890, 1994, and small 1862 land-grant institutions, the non-land-grant colleges of agriculture, and Hispanic-serving institutions.
Competitive Funding Emphasis.  Above the "competitive program critical base funding level," budgetary emphasis should be placed on enhanced funding for emerging problems and solutions.

New Mandatory Research Funding. The conferees provided $501 million in new mandatory spending (from FY 2008 to FY 2012 as detailed below). They also authorized an additional $190 million per year (from FY 2008 to FY 2012 as detailed below) in new "discretionary" spending subject to the annual congressional appropriations process. All of these new funds are to be used for targeted R&D programs administered by NIFA and distributed through peer-reviewed, competitively awarded grants:

  Organic Research: $78 million total over the FY 2009 – FY 2012 period in mandatory funding and an additional $25 million per year authorized for appropriations.
  Specialty Crops Research: $230 million total over the FY 2008 – FY 2012 period in mandatory funding and an additional $100 million per year authorized for appropriations.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program: $75 million total over the FY 2009 – FY 2012 period in mandatory funding and an additional $30 million per year authorized for appropriations.
Biomass R&D (in Energy Title): $118 million total over the FY 2009 – FY 2012 period in mandatory funding and an additional $35 million per year authorized for appropriations.

However, the conferees did not agree to NASULGC’s recommendation to resume mandatory funding for the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) program. While the $600 million in mandatory IFAFS funding scheduled to resume in 2010 was not provided, $500 million in new mandatory research funding was approved, and those funds will be made available sooner – beginning in 2008 and 2009, depending on the specific program source.

Expiring Authorities and Misc. Provisions. The NASULGC system requested renewal of dozens of expiring programs. The conferees acceded to nearly all of those requests. The system also requested a long list of new authorizations and miscellaneous changes to prior Farm Bill authorities. The conferees adopted most of those changes, including these:

  AASCARR Authorization. A new capacity building program for the non-land-grant colleges of agriculture will be established.
Indirect Costs. The current 19% cap on indirect costs for competitive grants will be increased to 22%.
EFNEP. (1) The University of the District of Columbia will become eligible to participate in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). (2) The 1862 and 1890 land-grants will each receive a minimum of $100,000 per year. (3) The 1890 institutions will receive an escalated percentage of any increase in EFNEP funding.
Evans-Allen. The authorized funding level for the Evans-Allen (1890s Research) Program will be increased from 25% of Hatch funds to 30%.
1890s Extension. The authorized funding level for 1890s Extension will be increased from 15% of Smith-Lever 3(b) funds to 20%.

LINKS

The House and Senate are both expected to vote on the conference report within the next few days. We will be back in touch once those votes have occurred.

The Cornerstone Team