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Four takeaways: USDA plans to move 500+ scientists to the KC Metro

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced plans to relocate nearly 550 USDA scientist positions from the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City metropolitan area. Originally announced in August 2018, the planned relocation of scientists within the USDA Economic Research Service, a statistical agency, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, has gained widespread attention.

New Farm Bill programs aim to cultivate rural innovation

The latest Farm Bill, expected to be signed into law Thursday, contains provisions that could provide significant new tools for rural innovations. The two greatest opportunities are the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant program, which creates an innovation cluster and strategy program for rural regions, and a change to allow the existing Community Facilities program to support incubators, makerspaces, and job training centers.

USDA plans to restructure, relocate research units

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue made an announcement in early August affecting two research units: Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. ERS will revert to part of the Office of the Chief Economist, and both units will be relocating outside of Washington, D.C. by the end of 2019.

USDA announces I-FAST prize competition

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA, is announcing the I-FAST prize competition to develop and implement the Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) program. NIFA will partner with NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to provide entrepreneurship training to NIFA grantees under this pilot program. The goals are to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from NIFA supported academic research. Over six months, the selected teams will learn what it will take to achieve an economic impact with their particular innovation.

USDA, NSF partner to support innovation in food, agricultural S&T

In partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) prize competition.

Senate Appropriations advances FY 2018 spending bills, would fund Regional Innovation at $21 million

Over the past week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations has passed bills to fund commerce and science, transportation, energy and water and agriculture. Regional Innovation Strategies would be funded at $21 million, an increase of $4 million over FY 2017. Other innovation proposals received mixed support, as the Senate cut $3.2 billion from commerce, justice and science funding and another $400 million from agriculture.

US House appropriations bills would make major cuts to innovation

The House Appropriations Committee began releasing FY 2018 “markup” budget bills this week, and the proposals would cut billions in non-defense spending. EDA would lose $100 million* in funding, SBA’s entrepreneurial development programs would lose $34 million, NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership would lose $30 million, and Energy’s ARPA-E would be eliminated, among other cuts.

USDA reorganization of Rural Development concerns supporters

While U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced that the Rural Development agency would be elevated under a reorganization plan because it would be placed under the direct oversight of the Secretary, not everyone is viewing the consolidation as an elevation.

Highlights from the President's FY 2018 Budget Request: Dept. of Agriculture

The president’s FY 2018 request for discretionary budget authority to fund programs and operating expenses is $21.0 billion, approximately $4.8 billion below the 2017 estimate in discretionary program funding for the Department of Agriculture (USDA). This includes funding for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Rural Development, Forest Service, food safety, research, and conservation activities. However, the budget does not include the USDA reorganization plan that was announced by Secretary Sonny Perdue on May 11, which proposes a change in status for Rural Development.

Budget deal supports innovation, research

Congress has passed a budget for FY 2017 that largely continues support for federal innovation programs and R&D investments. Among the highlights are $17 million for Regional Innovation Strategies (a $2 million increase over FY 2016), level funding of $130 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $5 million for SBA’s clusters program. In reviewing dozens of line items, offices that had received significant cuts in the White House’s skinny budget appear to receive some of the largest funding increases (such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Development Block Grant and ARPA-E). However, with the exception of multi-billion dollar increases for Department of Defense R&D, many increases are rather small in terms of overall dollars. This is, at least in part, a reflection of non-defense spending caps rising by only $40 million for FY 2017, limiting the availability of new funds. In this context, science and innovation gains are particularly impressive, with a five percent overall increase for federal R&D that particularly benefits NASA and NIH.

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