Friday, March 02, 2007

Should ASA/CSSA/SSSA Support the Creation of a National Institute of Food and Agriculture at USDA?

In the July issue of the CSA News, I wrote about the FY 2007 agriculture spending bill and how the increases slated by the House for formula funds and the NRI don’t amount to much in the way of new research funding opportunities for our scientists/sciences. As a comparison, I asked the reader to consider the increases being sought for the National Science Foundation: in his 07 budget for NSF, President Bush requested $6.02 billion, a 7.9% increase! Finally, I submitted that if current trends for ag research funding hold, we should not expect to make much headway in the coming years with either extramural research accounts supported by USDA Cooperative State, Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)—formula funding, NRI and Integrated (sec 406)—or Agricultural Research Service (ARS) intramural accounts. A possible solution to stagnant funding for ag research was then offered: new legislation, S 2782, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Act of 2006 (NIFA), introduced May 10, by Senators Kit Bond (R-Missouri), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) and Jim Talent (R-Missouri), which would establish the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to provide funding for the support of fundamental agricultural research of the highest quality. The legislation would place NIFA outside of the USDA-Research, Economics and Education mission area, as a separate institute answerable only to the Secretary.*Should the agricultural community support NIFA?*Where do our scientists plan on getting funding for their research projects 5,10, and 20 years into the future?*Given that the NRI, which was created around 1990 and authorized at $500 million, has reached a high in funding of only $181 million during the past 16 years, can current funding mechanisms provide adequate funding for our programs?*I recommend that ASA, CSSA and SSSA support NIFA. How can we tell these Senators that they do not have the support of the agriculture community? What are our alternatives?*Please air your thoughts, concerns, disagreements, and suggestions. My office needs your input so we know how to take action! Thanks, Karl