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Farm Bill Produces Major Victories for Public Research Universities

February 7, 2014—After literally years of effort, the Senate and House finally approved a new five-year Farm Bill that President Obama today signed into law. Most of APLU’s Farm Bill priorities were incorporated within Title VII (Research & Extension) or other portions of the bill.

“It’s been a very long road to get to this point, but we are very pleased that Congress has reached an agreement on a Farm Bill that will enable public research universities to continue and expand their cutting-edge research in agricultural areas that impact the lives of each American every day,” said Ian Maw, APLU Vice President for Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources.

The Conference report (bill language) and the Statement of Managers (explanatory report) are posted online.


  • Animal Health & Disease Research Program (Sec. 7111). Continues the existing capacity program (funds distributed by formula); authorizes a new competitive grants program (with specific purposes) open to land-grants and non-land-grant colleges of agriculture (NLGCA); authorizes $25M per year for the whole program; reserves first $5M for capacity distribution; funds above $5M distributed 15% to capacity and 85% to competitive grants; continues the existing capacity distribution formula.
  • Matching Funds Requirement (Sec. 7128). Establishes a new, uniform matching requirement for NIFA competitive grants; requires at least a 100% match; exempts ARS from the match; exempts land-grants and their partners from match; authorizes the Secretary to waive the match for a year for research/extension grants “that the NAREEE Advisory Board has determined is a national priority;” takes effect on Oct. 1, 2014.
  • New 1890 Land-Grant (Sec. 7129). Designates Central State University (Ohio) as a land-grant institution, but prohibits the University from receiving formula funds for two years (FY 2014 and FY 2015).
  • High-Priority Research and Extension Initiatives (Sec. 7209). New initiatives: coffee plant health, corn and soy meal, pulse crop health, and training coordination for food and agriculture protection. Pollinator protection is reauthorized and amended to include health and population status surveillance.
  • Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (Sec. 7211). Reauthorizes program and provides $100M in mandatory funding ($20M per year).
  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative (Sec. 7306). Authorizes the initiative to address research in genomics and other methods as well as efforts to improve handling and processing; provides $400M ($80M per year) in mandatory funding; authorizes an “Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program” and reserves $125M ($25M per year) in SCRI funding for this new initiative.
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (Sec. 7409). Program is reauthorized with $100M ($20M per year) in mandatory funding.
  • Annual Budget Submission from USDA (Sec. 7513). Provides statutory guidance to USDA concerning annual budget submission for Research, Education, and Economics mission area agencies (ARS, ERS, NIFA); requires submission of “detailed spending plans to Congress in advance of the development of annual appropriations measures so that Congress and interested constituencies can weigh the merits of these allocations against evolving priorities.”
  • Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (Sec 7601). Authorizes a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a new nonprofit corporation designed to supplement USDA’s basic and applied research activities; includes $200M in mandatory funding (available until expended); “Foundation [not intended] to be duplicative of current funding or research efforts, but rather to foster public-private partnerships…”


  • Supplemental Food and Nutrition Program Education (Sec 4028). Leaves existing mandatory funding levels for the SNAP-Ed program intact for next five years; FY 2014 funding level of $401M.
  • Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program (Sec. 4209). Amends the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 to authorize a $25 million NIFA-implemented competitive food and agriculture service learning grant program to increase knowledge of agriculture and improve the nutritional health of children. Eligible entities are those that carry out the purposes of the program (as specified in the Act).
  • Biodiesel Fuel Education Program (Sec. 9006). Extends this NIFA-administered program for five years and provides $5M ($1M per year) in mandatory funding.
  • Biomass Research and Development Initiative (Sec. 9008). Reauthorizes the NIFA-administered BRDI for five years and provides $12M ($3M for FY 2014 to FY 2017) in mandatory funding; urges focus on “reducing the costs of producing sugars from cellulosic biomass.”

As outlined above and detailed in the congressional documents, the Farm Bill priorities identified by the APLU Board on Agriculture Assembly’s Committee on Legislation and Policy (CLP) were largely adopted by Congress. The system’s myriad reauthorization requests and program “tweaks” were nearly all adopted and the final conference agreement includes $617 million in mandatory funding (not subject to annual appropriations) for five NIFA-administered programs.

These results would not have been possible without the sustained effort of the CLP, the Policy Board of Directors, and the entire membership of the Board on Agriculture Assembly. Collectively and individually you kept your senators and representatives informed about the system’s priorities and this effort — combined with the strong leadership of the two Agriculture Committee chairs (Rep. Frank Lucas and Sen. Debbie Stabenow) and ranking members (Rep. Collin Peterson and Sen. Thad Cochran) — produced these solid victories for the system.

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