Tensions remain high in Congress over federal spending. The most recent example of this disagreement between the two parties is fiscal year 2014 appropriations. Last week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved bills to fund the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy. Due to a disagreement on overall government spending in the upcoming fiscal year, the bills set vastly different funding levels for the departments and research programs.
With respect to agricultural research, the Senate would increase science funding relative to current funding levels, whereas the House would maintain roughly flat funding. Notably, both proposals fall short of President Obama’s budget request for agriculture programs. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would receive $1.1 billion, a $51 million increase, in the Senate bill. The House legislation recommends flat funding ARS. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would receive a $75 million increase to $1.3 billion if the Senate mark were enacted. The Senate would also increase funding by 9 percent for NIFA’s competitively awarded, extramural research program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Conversely, NIFA and AFRI would be essentially flat funded under the House bill.
For the Department of Energy Office of Science, the Senate would increase funding by $287 million to $5.2 billion next year. According to a summary of the bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee: “The highest priorities are materials and biological research to focus on breakthroughs in energy applications and computing to develop the next-generation high performance systems.” Funding for biological research would increase by $15.2 million to $625.3 million. Conversely, the House legislation would cut funding for the Office of Science by $223 million to $4.7 billion. The Biological and Environmental Research program would be cut by 21.5 percent to $494.1 million, by far the largest cut proposed for any Office of Science research program.
Both bills are awaiting consideration by their respective full chambers. Fiscal year 2014 starts on 1 October 2013.
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