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Ag research gets boost in Senate appropriations bill

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APHIS also gets $14 million boost in recently introduced Senate funding bill proposals.

The Senate Appropriations Committee proposed a total of $23.33 billion in funding that was included in draft legislation released on Tuesday. The bill provides more than $3.3 billion for agricultural research programs.

This includes $1.51 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and $1.54 billion for the National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA), including a $10 million increase for the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI). This funding will support investments in the research and development of new technologies and varieties to improve the productivity, sustainability and quality of American agriculture. The bill also fully funds the President’s request to support the continued establishment of the National Bio & Agro-Defense Facility.

The $435 million proposed in fiscal 2021 funding for AFRI is the same amount included in the House's 2021 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration & Related Agencies Appropriations legislation.

The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation praised the funding. As the USDA’s flagship competitive grants program for agricultural research within NIFA, AFRI uses a rigorous peer-reviewed process to recommend funding for the best research. The program is authorized at $700 million but is currently funded at $425 million annually, leaving much-needed research without funding.

“The COVID-19 economic downturn has hit farmers hard. Our farmers depend on scientific breakthroughs and innovations to continue to feed the country — and the world,” SoAR Foundation president Thomas Grumbly said, thanking subcommittee chair John Hoeven (R., N.D.), ranking member Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) and other members "for their commitment to finding long-term innovation solutions for our farmers, ranchers and producers. Investments in agricultural research ultimately benefit our families and nation.”

According to NIFA, AFRI investments have produced new diagnostic methods for animal diseases, genetic resources for row crops and livestock and alternatives to antimicrobials used to prevent disease in livestock. AFRI-funded projects have helped U.S. farmers remain competitive in the global marketplace.

The Senate bill also provides $1.06 billion for the USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an increase of more than $14 million above fiscal 2020 enacted levels. The funding will help protect the nation’s animal and plant resources from diseases and pests such as chronic wasting disease and Asian giant hornets.

The bill provides $1.07 billion for the Food Safety & Inspection Service, which fully funds the food safety and inspection programs that ensure safe and healthy food for American families. The bill promotes the safety and productivity of the nation’s $186 billion meat and poultry industry by supporting more than 8,000 frontline inspection personnel for meat, poultry and egg products at more than 6,400 facilities in the U.S.

The bill provides $1.434 billion for the Farm Service Agency (FSA), up $20 million from the 2020 enacted level, and also prohibits the closure of FSA county offices and provides resources for information technology improvements and personnel across county offices.

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