For the past few months, we have been bracing for potential cuts that would reduce funding levels to their FY 2008 levels. Unfortunately, it is beginning to appear as though we were overly optimistic. Unless the full House appropriations committee or the Senate reverses the course laid down by Representative Kingston (R-GA) and his agricultural appropriations subcommittee this week, agricultural research programs at USDA will sustain devastating cuts (significantly below 2008 levels) that will impact virtually every program that supports plant pathology research, extension, and education.
Under the bill approved by the House subcommittee, USDA discretionary research funding at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will decrease by 14 percent ($339 million) compared to FY 2011 funding levels, 20 percent below the FY 2010 level, and 13 percent below the FY 2008 funding level. After a significant cut in FY 2011, the ARS would be hit with an 18 percent reduction from the FY 2011 level which would include closure of 10 facilities that could affect more than 400 people.
NIFA discretionary funds would be reduced by 16 percent from the FY 2011 level or about 24 percent from the FY 2010 level. NIFA’s integrated programs are slated for a 78% reduction with the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) and the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative (NIFSI) programs completely eliminated. NIFA’s extension programs would receive a 14% cut that would reduce Smith-Lever Sections 3(b) and 3(c) by 12% and section 3(d) by 19%. NIFA’s overall discretionary research and education budget would be reduced by 15% with 9 line-item programs eliminated including the graduate fellowship grants and institution challenge grants programs. Approximately $40 million would be cut from the USDA’s flagship competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), with funding 15 percent below the FY 2011 level.
USDA research programs were not the only ones hit with a proposed reduction. The Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) budget would receive almost 9% less than in FY 2011 and international programs would be reduced by 25%.
In addition to program funding levels, the bill would allow up to 30 percent for indirect costs for competitive NIFA grants, up from the current 22 percent.
All of the program levels and percentage reductions are based on actual dollars; i.e., they have not been adjusted to reflect the impact of inflation. If we were to compare the proposed cuts in constant dollars, the impact would be staggering.
The subcommittee-approved bill is scheduled for mark-up on May 31, 2011, by the full House Committee on Appropriations. If you are interested in trying to reverse any of the proposed cuts in agricultural research, extension, and education programs, please contact your congressional members immediately. You can find the email form for your member of congress here. It will only take a few minutes to voice your concerns about the cuts and support for important programs.