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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee held two subcommittee hearings in which farm groups and other witnesses called for increased funding for agricultural research. Capitol Hill was also reacting to President Donald Trump’s recently released budget that called for plenty of cuts, including a $4.7 billion cut to discretionary programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It was somewhat reflective of the duality in Washington, D.C.,” writes Chris Clayton, in his Ag Policy Blog. “As President Donald Trump's administration looks to shift federal dollars and hold down spending, the White House proposes cut [sic] foreign aid, federal research dollars and other areas. At the same time, there are calls from groups in each of those programs arguing the federal government needs to boost spending.” House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) praised Trump’s proposed increase in defense spending and cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but expressed concern about cuts to the USDA. "I think it is very important to remember that net farm income is down 50% from where it stood just four years ago," he said. "America's farmers and ranchers are struggling, and we need to be extremely careful not to exacerbate these conditions.” Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) said the plan "demonstrates a lack of understanding of farm programs and their impact on rural America,” adding, “The good news is this budget will be ignored, as it should be. I urge the Administration to spend more time in rural America to gain an understanding of how things work and I hope that once an Agriculture Secretary is in place that he will be able to explain the value of these programs and services.” At the Subcommittee hearing on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research, Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL), said U.S. agriculture is the envy of the world due to its USDA programs and extension agencies at land-grant universities. "Agricultural research increasingly occupies a smaller share of the United States’ public research portfolio," Davis said. "At the same time, other countries like China are rapidly outpacing U.S. public investment. Given that public research is often the foundation upon which private research is built, public investment is essential to maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture." James Carrington, president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, who spoke at the hearing, also called for strengthening funding for agricultural research, noting its extensive economic payback, and its importance in ensuring food security in the future.

Posted March 17th, 2017