The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), representing over 42,000 scientists, urges the House and Senate conferees to provide higher levels of funding for agricultural research as the agriculture appropriations bill for FY 2001 is considered in conference. The House bill cuts $53 million from the budget request for competitive peer reviewed grants from the National Research Initiative (NRI) and the Senate bill cuts funding for these grants by $29 million relative to the Administration's request. The House bill also effectively zeros out the new $120 million Initiative for the Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) program. ASM urges the conferees to support levels of funding for agricultural research at least as high as the Senate provisions in Senate bill S2536 and to make every effort to allocate additional funding to reach the Administration's budget request for the NRI.
The U.S. agricultural system is one of the most productive and efficient in the world, due in part to past technological innovations. Agricultural research plays a critical role in promoting the nation's economic growth, improving environmental quality, and assuring innovative scientific research. The ASM supports increased funding for agricultural research through the peer reviewed competitive grants programs of the National Research Initiative and the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. The NRI supports important fundamental research on food safety, plant and animal genetics, and pest and disease management. IFAFS is a mandatory competitive grants program that differs from NRI in that it provides funding for research and extension projects that are multi-disciplinary and target emerging agricultural issues.
The ASM supports the recommendations of the National Research Council for agricultural research. The NRC report, A Vital Competitive Grants Program in Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research, strongly affirms the need for national peer reviewed programs as a critical step in addressing emerging agricultural issues. Competitive peer reviewed research, such as the NRI and IFAFS, strengthens agricultural research in the United States, and is essential for the nation's continuing prosperity.