Every four years Congress examines the nation’s policies on crop and livestock production, environmental conservation on agricultural lands, and emergency food assistance. The Senate has begun the endeavor to formulate and enact the 2012 farm bill, passing a 980 page bill from the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee on 26 April 2012.

Overall, the bill would reportedly cut the nation’s deficit by $23 billion. The legislation would consolidate and eliminate programs at the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Conservation programs are among the targets, with 23 existing programs proposed for consolidation into 13 programs.

The bill would also reauthorize several agricultural research programs at the USDA. The Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which supports research on specialty crops - fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, flowers, and nursery plants - would receive a permanent funding source if the bill were enacted. Funding for organic agriculture research and extension, however, would be cut by 20 percent. No changes would be made to the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Also included in the bill is a provision that requires the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to assess barriers faced by institutions with limited capacity to successfully apply and compete for research grants.


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