Jun 22, 2021Senators question Vilsack on proposed cuts to potato research funding
The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing June 15 to review the White House’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request for USDA.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared before the subcommittee and fielded questions on a wide variety of topics, including USDA staffing, research funding and USDA efforts to combat climate change.
A number of committee members questioned the Vilsack about proposed cuts to various research programs, including Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who asked about the budget’s proposed elimination of USDA’s potato breeding research program.
“This program played a key role in the development of a new potato variety, named the Caribou Russet. This has boasted the Maine industry with its high yields and resistance to disease. The Department received an overall 9% increase to its budget, so why is the potato breeding research program targeted for elimination?” asked Senator Collins.
Vilsack responded that the Department wants to support strong research but “blend it into the competitive structure instead of earmarking specific projects.”
“Now is not the time to be reducing federal resources for cutting edge agricultural research conducted by universities across the United States. NPC (National Potato Council) strongly opposes these cuts to funding that has been supported by Congress on a bipartisan basis for years,” wrote NPC President Dominic LaJoie.
NPC will continue to work with allies in Congress to reject the proposed cuts and ensure that this valuable bipartisan investment is maintained and enhanced in the FY22 Appropriations process.
Additional COVID support announced
Additional support for producers and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was announced recently by USDA. Through the USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, USDA will provide within the next 60 days the following aid: $200 million to small, family-owned timber harvesting and hauling businesses; $700 million for biofuels producers; $400 million to establish the new Dairy Donation Program; $580 million to support Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage payments to small and medium-sized farms; and $700 million for Pandemic Response and Safety Grants for PPE and other protective measures to help specialty crop growers, meatpackers, and others.
Additionally, USDA will provide assistance to contract growers of poultry and livestock producers who were forced to euthanize livestock due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. The USDA will also provide $20 million in funding to provide additional organic cost-share assistance. USDA estimates it has provided more than $11 billion in assistance since January to producers and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Registration open for virtual Summer Meeting, July 26-28
The pandemic has changed how we all do business. Fortunately, meeting virtually has made it easier than ever to connect with fellow growers from across the country as NPC works to achieve our mission of Standing Up for Potatoes on Capitol Hill!
Please join us for our virtual 2021 Summer Meeting Virtual committee and board meetings, July 26-28. All board of directors and committee members are strongly encouraged to participate.
The Summer Meeting is a free event for all members of the potato industry but you must register to participate.
Schedule (all times Eastern)
- Monday, July 26: Finance Committee, 11 a.m. to noon; Long Range Planning Committee, 2 to 3 p.m.
- Tuesday, July 27: Legislative and Government Affairs Committee, 11 a.m. to noon; Grower Outreach and Industry Research Committee, 2 to 3 p.m.
- Wednesday, July 28: Environmental Affairs Committee, 11 a.m. to noon; Trade Affairs Committee, 2 to 3 p.m.; NPC Board of Directors Meeting, 5 to 5:30 p.m.
— National Potato Council