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Government Relations & Washington Update

May 2021

President Biden Releases Discretionary Budget Priorities
On April 9th, President Biden released information related to his fiscal year 2022 budget priorities.  The submission to Congress highlights discretionary spending priorities for federal agencies but does not include program-by-program details.  A full FY 2022 budget request is expected later in the spring.  Biden’s discretionary request proposes $769 billion in non-defense discretionary funding in FY 2022, which reflects a 16 percent increase over the FY 2021 enacted level.

Research and development are featured prominently in the budget request.  According to the Biden Administration, the discretionary request proposes increases in funding for foundational research and development across a range of scientific agencies to help spur innovation across the economy and renew America’s global leadership.  Below are summaries of proposed research investments in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Science Foundation (NSF).

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The discretionary request provides $4 billion, or $647 million above the 2021 enacted level, for USDA’s research, education, and outreach programs. These investments in agricultural research would advance innovation and the application of science-based and data driven tools to put American technologies into the hands of farmers. In addition, the discretionary request provides an increase of $161 million above the 2021 enacted level to support a multi-agency initiative to integrate science-based tools into conservation planning in order to measure, monitor, report, and verify carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas reduction, wildlife stewardship, and other environmental services at the farm level and on Federal lands.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
For the NSF, the President’s 2022 discretionary request includes $9.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion above the 2021 enacted level, to support research across the spectrum of science, engineering, and technology, including biological sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering, geosciences, math and physical sciences, social, behavioral, and economic sciences, and education.  The President’s proposal also includes $1.2 billion for climate and clean energy related research, an increase of $500 million above the 2021 enacted level.  NSF would fund a broad portfolio of research related to climate science and clean energy, including research on atmospheric composition, water and carbon cycles, modeling climate systems, renewable energy technologies, materials sciences, and social, behavioral, and economic research on human responses to climate change.

American Jobs Plan Incudes Research Infrastructure Investments
On March 31, 2021, President Biden released the American Jobs Plan which would provide $2.25 trillion in investments in a variety of infrastructure initiatives.  While many of the proposed initiatives address traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, the President’s proposal also includes support for research infrastructure.  Biden’s proposal calls on Congress to make the following investments in America’s research infrastructure:

$50 billion in the National Science Foundation (NSF), creating a technology directorate that will collaborate with and build on existing programs across the government. It will focus on fields like semiconductors and advanced computing, advanced communications technology, advanced energy technologies, and biotechnology. He also is calling on Congress to provide $30 billion in additional funding for R&D that spurs innovation and job creation, including in rural areas.

$40 billion in upgrading research infrastructure in laboratories across the country, including brick-and-mortar facilities and computing capabilities and networks. These funds would be allocated across the federal R&D agencies, including at the Department of Energy. Half of those funds will be reserved for Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions, including the creation of a new national lab focused on climate that will be affiliated with an HBCU.

The $40 billion proposed to upgrade facilities could be used to support investments in university research facilities, as called for by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) recent study entitled “A National Study of Capital Infrastructure at Colleges and Schools of Agriculture”.

Secretary Vilsack Signals no Change for ERS and NIFA Relocations
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently made comments at an agricultural journalism conference regarding the status of relocations of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  Vilsack indicated that the Department does not plan to reverse the move of the two agencies to Kansas City.  However, while the Biden Administration is not expected to move the agencies back to Washington, DC, there are indications that future hires for the agencies will not be limited to Kansas City.  Vilsack was quoted as saying, “I think you’ll see over time some of those positions that are currently not filled today will be filled in Kansas City, and some of those positions that aren’t filled today will be filled in the Washington, D.C., area.  I think it will be a mix. … They’re important positions, the research is important, the data collection is important.”  The recent experience with remote working during the pandemic has demonstrated the effectiveness of telecommuting and remote work, which may open the ability to recruit agency staff in the Washington, DC area, even with the headquarters officials in Kansas City.