U.S. Department of Agriculture - FY 2001 Testimony

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 crucial role in promoting the nation's economic growth, improving environmental quality, and assuring innovative scientific research. Federal support for agricultural research is essential, in order to build the broad knowledge base needed to commercialize new and improved agricultural products and tools.

U.S. agriculture, however, continues to face an array of challenges, including the threats of new and emerging diseases, public concern about food safety and the agriculture industry's impact on the environment, not to mention an increasing global population. It is critical to increase the investment in research to respond to these challenges. We encourage Congress to build on the renewed focus on agricultural research in recent years, which will benefit not only U.S. agriculture but also the health and well being of every American citizen.

Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service

The ASM strongly supports competitive peer reviewed research that is open to all the nation's scientists. The ASM urges the Subcommittee to support the President's request of $150 million for the National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRI) within the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), an increase of $31 million over the FY 2000 appropriation. The proposed increase will address important research areas in agriculture including food safety, plant and animal genetics, and pest and disease management.

The ASM is pleased to see the President's continued support for the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS). This competitive grants program differs from the NRI in that it provides $120 million in fully offset mandatory funding for research and extension projects that are multi-disciplinary and applied in scope and target critical and emerging agriculture issues. ASM encourages the Congress to support this needed infusion of research money.

Agricultural Research Service

The ASM supports the President's request to increase funding for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) by 7.7 percent or $64 million in FY 2001. This increase will enable the ARS to support both ongoing and new initiatives in such areas as emerging and exotic diseases, invasive species, plant and animal genetics research, food safety, technologies for production and conversion of crops into biobased products and bioenergy, and research initiatives on soil, water and air quality.

U.S. agriculture is experiencing severe problems caused by new and reemerging infectious diseases in plants and animals, a threat which requires immediate attention. Changes in agricultural practices, population growth, climate, microbial evolution, animal migration, and international trade and travel are all factors in the threat of introducing new plant and animal diseases into the U.S. agriculture system. The lack of knowledge to effectively manage and control new and reemerging infectious disease often leads to serious consequences such as reduced crop yield and unacceptable quality. Billions of dollars are lost through trade embargoes, quarantines, and the destruction of agricultural fields to control the spread of disease. The President's budget requests $23.2 million for ARS to address major threats to U.S. agriculture from exotic diseases, pests and invasive species. This increase includes $10 million for expanding the diagnostic capabilities to prevent acts of chemical and biological terrorism against U.S. agricultural and food security systems. The increase will also provide additional funds to prevent and control emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases afflicting livestock and aquaculture. The ASM urges the Congress to provide the President's request for these activities.

Biobased Products

The ASM supports the requested increase of $14 million for research to accelerate the conversion of agricultural materials and feedstocks into biofuels, and enhance the advancement of valuable biobased products. Such scientific advancements in biobased product research allow for enhanced farm income, strengthened U.S. energy security, and environmental protection.

USDA Food Safety Initiative

The ASM recommends that Congress provide additional funding to USDA of at least the $5.7 million increase to expand food safety research in support of the President's Food Safety Initiative. New funding is essential for research on antibiotic resistant bacteria in poultry, swine and cattle; to control bacteria and pathogens carried by animals and transmitted to humans and to develop intervention strategies used in HACCP to reduce the risk of pathogen infestation in meat and poultry, as well as implementation of the Shell Egg Action Plan.

USDA's National Food Genome Strategy

The ASM is disappointed that no request has been made for genetic resources for microorganisms. Microbes are involved in all aspects of agriculture-from beneficial uses of microbes in food (i.e. yogurt, cheese, bread, beer and wine) to pest controls to the spread of disease in plants and animals and the contamination of the food supply. Studying the genomes of agricultural microbes could lead to the development of new technologies to provide improved foods and better pest control to protect the nation's crops, to reduce the incidence of plant and animal disease, and to ensure a safer food supply.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

The ASM urges the Congress to provide the requested $16 million, an increase of $5 million, for the FY2001 appropriation for the Animal Care Unit within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is the regulatory body mandated to enforce laboratory animal care. This increase would maintain current activities, while allowing for increased inspections and improved follow-up to verify corrections of prospective violators. Additionally, APHIS would expand outreach efforts to the general public and AWA regulated facilities by increasing the amount of educational resources available, encourage participation at industry meetings, and allow the development of industry specific training for animal care and welfare.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on USDA programs. We would be pleased to respond to any questions.

The ASM is the largest single life science organization in the world with more than 42,000 members who are scientists and administrators working in academic, governmental and industrial institutions worldwide. ASM members are involved in research on problems related to human health, the environment, agriculture and energy. Microbiological research is directly related to food and agriculture in the areas of foodborne diseases, new and emerging plant and animal diseases, soil erosion and soil biology, agricultural biotechnology, and the development of new agricultural products and processes. The mission of ASM is to enhance the science of microbiology to better understand basic life processes and to promote the application of this knowledge for improved health and for economic and environmental well-being.