By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, Congressman Robert Aderholt (R) from Haleyville released written statement after question U.S. Department of Agriculture officials about the department’s research budget. Officials at the hearing include: the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics and Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Wotecki, Administrator of the National Agriculture Statistics Service Dr. Cynthia Clark, Administrator of the Economic Research Service Dr. Mary Bohman, Administrator of the Agricultural Research Service Dr. Ed Knipling, Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, and USDA Budget Director Mr. Mike Young. Rep. Aderholt is the Chairman of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
Chairman Aderholt asked, “This Subcommittee has a strong tradition of supporting agricultural research programs,” said Aderholt. “While USDA has a very broad research mandate, neither Congress nor USDA can fund every worthwhile or interesting project proposed even if it meets the goals of the Research, Education and Economics Action plan. In today’s budgetary environment, USDA must prioritize its research missions in an effort to give American taxpayers the best possible return on their investment.”
Representative Aderholt said, “In this year’s budget request, the Department proposes the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) spend $155 million to design and build a new state-of-the-art poultry science lab in Athens, Georgia, meanwhile consolidating six existing laboratories across the country and closing a facility in Arkansas. While this Subcommittee is generally supportive of investments in infrastructure for agricultural research, we need more information on how this new lab will help researchers better understand poultry diseases and improve the health of U.S. poultry.”
Congressman Aderholt continued, “I appreciate the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) efforts over the past two years to consolidate and streamline the management of some of its programs. However, this Subcommittee is concerned about NIFA’s disregard for our request for information on the scope, timeline and cost of a number of their programs, including the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). While today’s hearing was productive, this Subcommittee is left with several unanswered questions. In particular, questions regarding specific program details that are vital to this body doing its job. We do not offer these directives and ask for this type of information without reason and we encourage Dr. Wotecki and her colleagues to comply with these directives, or this Subcommittee will be forced to make the Department’s research programs funding and allocation decisions without this important data.”
At the beginning of the 20th century over half of Americans lived on farms and grew almost all their own food. Even many “urban” residents grew their own vegetables and often kept poultry or a milk cow to provide their family with needed sustenance. Despite the population tripling over time, urban growth that has cost millions of acres of farmland, and far far fewer Americans being employed in Agriculture, American agriculture yields far more today that it did back then and there is less hunger in this country today than there was back then. New plant varieties yield far more than their ancestors did, today’s milk cows produce much more milk, today’s hogs are leaner and grow faster, hens lay more eggs, today’s chickens and turkeys are much more feed efficient and grow more rapidly than the flocks of old. USDA research has played an enormous role in both the scientific advances in the farming sciences and in the rapid adoption by farmers of the new technologies.
Congressman Aderholt is currently serving as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies for the House Appropriations Committee. He is also a member of the Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science; and Homeland Rep. Aderholt also serves on the Helsinki Commission.