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Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill Advances through Committee

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY 2016 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill (S. 1800) on July 16, after the bill’s approval by the Agriculture Subcommittee earlier in the week. Among the agencies funded in the bill are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) principal statistical agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which houses the Department’s main competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The House Appropriations Committee passed its version of the bill on July 8 (more on the House bill is available here).

In general, the Senate bill would provide more funding to agencies of interest to the social and behavioral science community than the House bill. However, the Committee’s adherence to current spending caps means that the proposed funding levels still fall below the Administration’s request. The bill would maintain ERS’ FY 2015 funding level of $85.4 million, $7.3 million above the cut proposed by the House. NASS would be cut by $4.3 million compared to FY 2015, but the Senate mark is still $6.9 million more than the House bill. In the committee report, both agencies are encouraged to continue to collect and analyze data on organic agriculture.

Under the Senate bill, NIFA would receive a small increase over FY 2015, but the total falls well short of the Administration’s proposed funding level of $1.5 billion. AFRI would actually receive $10 million less under the Senate’s bill compared to the House version—the same amount as in FY 2015.

Neither bill is likely to reach the floor of either chamber anytime soon as the larger debate over sequestration and spending caps has stalled the FY 2016 process and likely will not be resolved until later in the fall at the earliest.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 28), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House Agriculture Appropriations Bill Would Cut USDA Research and Statistics

The House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee advanced its draft bill to the full committee on June 18. A full committee markup originally scheduled for June 25 was postponed. Among the agencies funded in the bill are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) research and statistical agencies, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The Committee Report is available here. COSSA has joined the Friends of Agricultural Statistics and Analysis (FASA), a new coalition of stakeholders who care about timely, accurate, and objective food and agricultural statistics, on several letters to House staff to request stronger appropriations for ERS and NASS.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture would see a $5.2 million cut from FY 2015, $218.8 million below the President’s request. Hatch Act programs would be flat-funded. NIFA’s investigator-initiated grants program, the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative (AFRI), would receive a $10 million increase from FY 2015, still well below the Administration’s request of $450 million. Language in the Committee Report asks for additional clarity in next year’s budget request on how proposed funds for AFRI would be spent:

“For the fiscal year 2017 budget request, the Committee is particularly interested in the request for AFRI, and requests that the agency provide greater detail on the levels proposed to be allocated to and the expected publication date, scope, and allocation level for each request for awards to be published under each priority area specified in section 2(b)(2) of the Competitive, Special, and Facilities Research Grant Act (7 U.S.C. 450i(b)(2)).”

The USDA’s principal statistical agencies, the Economic Research Service and the National Agricultural Statistical Service, do not fare as well under the House bill. The bill proposes an 8.6% cut for ERS, which would bring its funding down to $78.1 million. NASS would receive an $11.2 million cut from FY 2015, leaving it 10.6% below the level proposed in the President’s budget request. These cuts would likely force both agencies make cuts to their core products and services.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 30), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Agriculture Census Highlights Organic Farms

The National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) released findings from the 2012 Census of Agriculture’s Special Organics Tabulation illustrating some key differences between organic and conventional farms. Forty-two percent of organic farms sell directly to consumers, compared with only 7 percent of all U.S. farms. Organic farms are also more likely to participate in non-traditional markets, such as marketing directly to retail outlets, producing value-added products, or distributing products through farm-shares or CSAs (community-supported agriculture). Organic farms also invest more in renewable energy production. More on the Census is available on the NASS website.

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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