President Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year was released last week, and it includes deep spending cuts to foreign aid and agricultural programs.
The proposed budget includes cuts to established programs, including a 32 percent reduction to State Department funding and a 21 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Agriculture funding. The State Department cuts include programs that provide security, economic growth, humanitarian aid, and contributions to the United Nations.
Though the State Department budget is attracting more national attention, the cuts to the USDA budget are more important to the horticulture industry. The cuts amount to a $4.7 billion reduction from fiscal year 2017. Funding for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will be reduced by $240 million if the proposed budget passes. That’s a decrease of 16 percent from fiscal year 2017. The Crop Protection division of ARS faces a $31 million cut to ongoing research projects.
Projects are proposed for elimination based on criteria such as “low impact or significance to national priorities.” The Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI) and ARS support for the IR-4 Program, both critical programs for the green industry, are on the list.
FNRI is responsible for several ongoing projects, including intelligent sprayer technology, the U.S. National Arboretum’s germplasm preservation and breeding programs, water use efficiency improvements, and boxwood blight research. Each program would end in fiscal year 2018, many prior to completion, if the President’s budget proposal is adopted.
USDA-ARS support for the IR-4 program’s minor use pesticide registration efforts would also end. Regelbrugge says this will translate to fewer available tools in the future for growers to combat pests.
“As an industry, we rely on these dollars to make U.S. growers more efficient and competitive internationally, prevent and manage pests and diseases, protect the environment, maintain biodiversity through germplasm preservation, help rural, suburban, and urban communities, and improve the public’s overall health and quality of life,” Regelbrugge said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also facing severe reductions to its Regional Climate Centers. The RCCs face a recommended 82 percent budget cut in Trump’s proposed budget.
NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) manages the RCC Program. The RCCs are a network of six weather data gathering and processing centers that manage weather information. That information helps fire managers battle wildland fires, helps farmers and growers decide where and when to plant crops and helps engineers design dams and bridges that can stand up to extremes. The centers also produce the U.S. Drought Monitor and helps coastal communities prepare for hurricanes and other hazards.
Members of the Republican-controlled Congress have knocked the proposed budget, arguing that it both doesn't increase defense spending enough while also proposing unrealistic cuts for some domestic programs.
The day after Trump released his proposed budget, Republican senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.) used the platform of an Appropriations subcommittee meeting to say the president’s budget “doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing.”
If the president's budget is shot down, that doesn't guarantee the safety of horticulture research programs like IR-4 and FNRI, Regelbrugge said. Congress is expected to set aside the White House's budget proposal and instead craft their own legislation later this year. In the meantime, Regelbrugge said AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are working together to preserve FNRI.
"There is certainly a chance that significant cuts could happen to USDA budget generally, and ARS specifically, and they could impact these programs," Regelbrugge said.