Last week the House of Representatives’ Appropriations agriculture subcommittee passed a fiscal year 2018 funding bill for USDA with $1 billion fewer dollars compared with this current 2017 fiscal year. The federal budget calendar runs from October 1st to September 30th.
NAAA again successfully pushed for language in the report to the bill indicating Congress’ continued support of the USDA-ARS Aerial Application Technology Program. The mention of aerial application within the report supporting the legislation is no small feat, as it is one of only a few ag programs specifically mentioned. NAAA will continue to work for adequate USDA-ARS funding for the continued design of aerial application technologies, tools and techniques that mitigate drift, result in fuel savings and make aerial applications more efficacious. Favorable committee report language sends a strong message to the USDA to continue to sustain appropriate funding for aerial application research, and this message couldn’t be more important as USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), where the aerial application research unit is housed, has had its budget cut over the past few years resulting in the shutdown of 10 research units. Since 2002 NAAA has been successful in lobbying the government for an additional $8,912,500 in federal funding for aerial application technology research.
The bill advanced by the House subcommittee provides $20 billion dollars or $1.1 billion less than it did in fiscal 2017 for three agencies — the Agriculture Department, FDA and CFTC. The bill provides $2.8 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. In this fiscal year 2017 final funding for agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture was $2.54 billion.
Moving forward the bill still needs to pass the entire House and be reconciled with a Senate bill, then signed by President Trump. Overall, the president's discretionary funding request for USDA in fiscal 2018 is about $18 billion, a decline of about 21 percent from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution level. The Agricultural Research Service, which house’s the Aerial Application Technology Research Unit (AATRU), would lose $360 million (or 26 percent) under the Trump plan. This would mean closing the doors at 17 research centers. NAAA will keep the membership informed of federal agricultural spending, particularly as it pertains to research for aerial application technology conducted at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.