FY2005 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations (11-29-04)
The primary interests for the geoscience community in the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations bill are the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
The NRCS (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) works with conservation districts, watershed groups, and the Federal and State agencies having related responsibilities to bring about physical adjustments in land use that will conserve soil and water resources, provide for agricultural production on a sustained basis, and reduce damage by flood and sedimentation. The NRCS, with its dams, debris basins, and planned watersheds, provides technical advice to the agricultural conservation programs, and through these programs, works to minimize pollution. The long-term objectives of the NRCS are designed to maintain and improve the soil, water, and related resources of the Nation's nonpublic lands by: reducing excessive soil erosion, improving irrigation efficiencies, improving water management, reducing upstream flood damages, improving range condition, and improving water quality.
As the chief scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 1,700 ARS scientists stationed at about 100 locations in the United States and five other countries work to find -- and make available -- solutions to high-priority problems facing the nation's agricultural interests. One of the scientsts' goals is to protect and improve soil, water and other natural resources.
The Department of Agriculture supports several programs in soil science, watershed management, and water resources. The president has requested $83,325 million for the USDA total budget, a 3.8% cut from FY04 funding. Most of the aforementioned programs are funded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which requested a total of $2.76 billion. Within this amount, $40 million would go towards watershed and flood prevention operations, $5 million would go towards watershed surveys and planning activities, $20 million would go towards ground and surface water conservation program, and $295 million would go towards the Wetlands Reserve Program. Of all programs mentioned, only the Wetlands Reserve Program would see an increase in funding. The Emergency Watershed Protection account would not be funded at all under the proposed FY 2005 budget.
Additional information on the Department of Agriculture's
budget request is available at http://www.usda.gov/agency/obpa/Home-Page/obpa.html.
The House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY05 Agriculture Appropriations bill June 23, cutting funding 3.8% for the bill as a whole. Funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was cut by 3%; the Committee recommended $993 million for the NRCS, $33 million less than FY04 and $84.5 million more than the President requested. The Committee was also concerned that the NRCS was using Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) funds for Farm Bill conservation programs, which is expressly prohibited in the bill language, and asked for a report detailing accounting of these funds. Additionally, the Committee asked for a report on funding allocations to the states, which they feared had been reduced in proportion to Congressional earmarks. Only the projects specifically listed in the bill report received funding again in FY05, and many funds were directed to be used in cooperation with other agencies. $23.5 million was allocated for the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, $9.25 million for snow surveys, $11.7 million for Plant Materials Centers, and $85.8 million for the Soil Surveys Program.
Watershed Surveys and Planning was provided $11.1 million, an increase of $600,000 from the FY04 enacted level and $6 million from the President's request. Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations was given $86.5 million, the same amount recommended in FY04 and $46.5 million above the President's request. Language in the bill limits defines that money spent on technical assistant is not to exceed $40 million. Some of these funds are earmarked for watershed, dam or conservation projects in 13 states. Funding for the Agricultural Research Service was cut to $1.057 billion, $25 million less than FY04 and $132 million less than the President's request.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the 2005 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill on September 14. The Committee recommended $84,030 million for the USDA total budget, roughly equal to the budget request and 3% less than the current enacted level. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is slated to receive $993 million in FY05, a 3.2% cut from the current level and a 9.3% increase from the request. According to the report, this agency, "works with conservation districts, watershed groups, and the Federal and State agencies having related responsibilities to bring about physical adjustmednts in land use that will conserve soil and water resources, provide for agricultural production on a sustained basis, and reduce damage by flood and sedimentation."
The Watershed Surveys and Planning Account is recommended to receive $7.5 million, a 28% decrease from the FY04 appropriation of $10.5 million and a 47% increase over the budget request of $5.1 million. According to the report, "The Committee is concerned that additional watershed surveys and planning work is being initiated at a time when ongoing planning is not being completed in a timely manner, and the backlog for watershed project implementation and construction continues to mount. As such, the Committee does not provide funding for any new planning starts. The Committee directs the Chief of NRCS to evaluate and rank existing planning efforts currently underway in order to fund and complete the most promising projects, based upon merit, and notify the Committee of the selected watershed projects." The Committee recommends $64 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations account, a 26% decrease from the current level of $86.5 million but a 59.6% increase over the budget request for $40.1 million.
"The Agricultural Research Service [ARS] is responsible for conducting basic, applied, and developmental research on: soil, water, and air sciences; plant and animal productivity; commodity conversion and delivery; human nutrition; and the integration of agricultural systems. The research applies to a wide range of goals; commodities; natural resources; fields of science; and geographic, climatic, and environmental conditions." This account is recommended to receive $1,263 million, 10.2% more than the current level and 8.3% more than requested.
Once again, Congress failed to pass all thirteen appropriations bills by the September 30th deadline and opted to pass two continuing resolutions, funding all federal agencies at FY04 levels until December 3rd. Congress came back into lame duck session on November 16th with the omnibus appropriations legislation first on the agenda. When all the dust settled, Congress agreed on the massive 3000 page $388 billion spending bill, H.R. 4818, for FY05. The bill, which was crafted under the mantra of fiscal restraint, employed a 0.8% across-the-board cut to reign in spending. That is reflected in the FY05 Enacted column in the table above.
The United States Department of Agriculture was flat funded at $82.6 billion. The Natural Resources Conservation Service was cut 3.3% to $992 million. The conferees expressed concern about the misuse of discretionary conservation technical assistance funds. They were also concerned that, "funding allocations to the States are being reduced in proportion to Congressional earmarks funded in the Conservation Operations account. The conferees direct the Chief of the NRCS, in making the fiscal year 2005 Conservation Operations funding allocations to the States, to treat Congressional earmarks as additions to the States' funding allocation."
Watershed Surveys and Planning suffered a 33% cut, from $10.5 million in FY04 to $6.9 million in FY05. The report states, "The conferees are concerned that additional watershed surveys and planning work is being initiated at a time when ongoing planning is not being completed in a timely manner, and the backlog for watershed project implementation and construction continues to mount. The conferees direct the Chief of NRCS to evaluate and rank planning efforts in order to fund and complete the most promising projects based upon merit, and notify the Committees on Appropriations of the selected watershed projects."
Watershed and Flood Prevention was cut 13% to $75 million. The conferees include bill language which limits the amount spent on technical assistance to not more than $35 million. The Agricultural Research Service benefited from a 16% budget increase to $1.29 billion.
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture website; White House Office of Management and Budget
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program staff; Gayle Levy, AGI/AAPG 2004 Spring Semester Intern; Ashlee Dere, AGI/AIPG 2004 Summer Intern and David Millar, AGI/AAPG 2004 Fall Semester Intern.
Last Update November 29, 2004