Highlights from the President's FY17 Department of Agriculture Budget Request

February 11, 2016

Estimated FY16 funding levels are used for comparisons unless otherwise noted.
The president’s FY17 budget proposal would provide $24.6 billion (4.1 percent decrease) in discretionary funds for the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The administration is proposing a $700 million investment in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), USDA’s competitive, peer-reviewed research program for fundamental and applied sciences in agriculture. USDA will also contribute to the cross-agency Mission Innovation clean energy initiative and the administration’s clean water innovation strategy.

Research, Education and Economics
USDA’s Research, Education and Economics (REE) agencies would receive $2.9 billion in discretionary funding (1.3 percent decrease). Overall funding however, would increase with several major investments through mandatory funding, totaling $535 million.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funds projects conducted in partnership with state agricultural experiment stations, the state cooperative extension system, land grant universities, colleges and other research and education institutions. The proposed budget includes $1.4 billion (3.6 percent increase) in discretionary funding for NIFA, along with $505 million (195.3 percent increase) in mandatory funds. The major increase in mandatory funding is due to a legislative proposal for AFRI, which, if approved, would receive $375 million in discretionary funds and $325 million in mandatory funds to expand research in water and food production systems, climate variability and change, sustainable bioenergy production, food safety, childhood obesity prevention, foundational science and an education and literacy initiative.

The budget would shift funding for NIFA’s STEM program to consolidated offices under the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.  A new 1890s Capacity Coordination Initiative would receive $10 million, along with $22 million for formula grants under an existing program, to support research and extension at 1890 Institutions (historically black universities established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890). The $10 million would support the launch of three research centers. Funding would also be boosted for NIFA research and extension in tribal areas with $7 million in funding (75 percent increase).

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would be allocated $1.3 billion (5.1 percent decrease), but funding for research programs would increase by 2 percent. ARS’ largest research program, Environmental Stewardship, would receive $213 million (4.9 percent increase), including additional funding for climate change and water research.

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) would receive $91 million (5.9 percent increase) under the proposal, while the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) would receive $177 million.

Rural Development
USDA Rural Development (RD) would be funded at $3 billion (2 percent increase) in FY17 in discretionary funds under the proposed budget. RD houses the Rural Housing Service (RHS), Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) and Rural Utilities Service (RUS), all of which provide financial and technical assistance to rural communities.

Budget authority for RUS would decrease 2.7 percent to $586 million, but triple for RUS broadband grants. Grants to expand access to learning and medical resource over the Internet would be funded at $39 million.

RBS discretionary funding would increase by 63.2 percent, to $155 million, though mandatory funding for its programs would decrease by 25.3 percent to $68 million. As part of the administration’s government-wide clean energy initiative, RBS’ Rural Energy for America Grants and Loans program would receive a major increase. The discretionary budget would provide $15 million for grants and $3.5 million for loan guarantees to support $75.8 million in guaranteed private lending. Another $50 million for the program would derive from mandatory funding. The Bioenergy for Advanced Fuels program requests $15 million ($7.1 percent increase) in mandatory funds.

RBS’ Rural Business Development Grant Program would receive $30 million (25 percent increase), the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans Program would receive $36 million (no change) to support $892 million in loans, and $97 million (115.6 percent increase) in program activity is requested for the Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants program, which is funded from earnings from electric cooperative investments and fees.

RBS Rural Cooperative Development Grants would be funded at $6 million (no change), and Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas would receive $2 million (no change).

Neither the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), nor the Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP) received discretionary funds in FY16. Under the request, RMAP would receive $8 million in discretionary and mandatory funds to support $33 million in grants and loans. RBIP would receive $7 million to support $25 million in guaranteed loans and grants.

 

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