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Government Relations & Washington Update

March 2023

President Biden Releases FY 24 Budget
On March 9th, President Biden released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2024.  The 2024 request for USDA includes funding of $32.6 billion for the department, which is $4.7 billion over 2023.  This represents a proposed increase of 16.9 percent.  The Research, Education and Economics Mission Area, comprised of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Economic Research Service (ERS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), would receive a total of $4 billion under the President’s budget.  ARS is slated for $1.9 billion to support ARS research, including increases of $83 million for clean energy, $88.5 million for climate science, $20 million in support of the Cancer Moonshot, $10 million for Climate Hubs and Climate Hub Fellows, and $6 million for additional high priority investments.  The budget includes $151 million for livestock production research, up from $148 million in FY 2023 and $162 million for livestock protection, up from $153 million last year.

For ERS, the budget includes $98 million in program funding, which represents an increase of $5 million over FY 2023.  The total includes over $8 million for climate initiatives and $285,000 to support minority serving institutions. Among the climate initiatives is $2.2 million for a study of irrigation.

NASS is proposed to receive $241 million in program funding, up from $211 million last year.  The total includes $8 million to help measure climate science research. The Budget includes a $12 million increase within the Census of Agriculture account to support a total of $25 million for modernization efforts to improve customer service, improve access to data, and modernize IT infrastructure.

The President’s budget includes $1.9 billion for NIFA.  The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is proposed to receive $550 million, a $95 million increase from FY 2023.  This represents the largest programmatic increase requested in the NIFA budget.  Support for capacity programs Hatch and Smith Lever are proposed to receive the same amount as last year at $265 million and $325 million, respectively.  The budget includes $370 million to support Minority Serving Institutions across a variety of programs.  The budget requests $10 million for the Research Facilities Act, which received its first ever appropriation of $2 million in FY 2023. 

Congress will now begin the appropriations process for FY 2024.  The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee are expected to hold hearings in the near future.

Senate Agriculture Committee Holds Hearing with Secretary Vilsack
On March 16th, the Senate Agriculture Committee held an oversight hearing examining the Department of Agriculture.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified on the Department of Agriculture (USDA) operations and recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill. Find his testimony HERE. Secretary Vilsack’s testimony included a section highlighting the importance of agricultural research.  He stated that federal investment in public research and development (R&D) in agriculture is foundational to ensuring the United States maintains its role as a global leader in agricultural competitiveness.  He also discussed the recent decline in federal investments in research and how China has accelerated its funding of agricultural research.  Vilsack noted that the Farm Bill represents an important opportunity to help shape research programs and policies.  Nutrition policy was a major topic of discussion during the hearing, with Republicans pressing for reforms and spending reductions and Democrats defending recent changes that have greatly increased the cost of nutrition programs.  How the farm bill and other government programs should support various sizes of farms was also the subject of much discussion.  Other topics included urban farming, broadband access, data-driven precision agriculture, and foreign ownership of agricultural land.