Craig Regelbrugge: Proposed Budget Cuts Could Eliminate Key Horticulture Programs

Craig Regelbrugge: Proposed Budget Cuts Could Eliminate Key Horticulture Programs

President Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year has created a stir, especially regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) where significant cuts are proposed. Trump has proposed $4.7 billion less for FY2018 for all of USDA, which is a 21% reduction as compared with FY2017. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), in particular, was singled out with a pledge to refocus research funding to highlight what some see as the highest priority agricultural and food issues, such as increasing farming productivity, sustaining natural resources, food safety, and nutrition.

At least two key programs vital to greenhouse and nursery growers would be deeply cut or eliminated.

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ARS’s FY2018 budget would see a reduction of more than 16% (as compared with FY2017), which is $240.8 million. The Crop Protection division of ARS faces a decrease of nearly $31 million in ongoing research projects.

Many 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 this list.

FNRI, a model research partnership that includes ARS, industry, and land grant university scientists, invests nearly $5 million annually to support research projects conducted by both ARS and university scientists.

AmericanHort, the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), and the Society of American Florists provide industry insights that shape FNRI priorities, and HRI often provides direct industry funding to support FNRI’s work. Ongoing high-value FNRI project examples include intelligent spray technology, the U.S. National Arboretum’s germplasm preservation and breeding programs, water use efficiency improvements, and boxwood blight. All of these programs would cease in FY2018, 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. ARS projects are responsible for approximately 25% of ornamental horticulture trials at IR-4 that contributed to about 67% of the regulatory registration decisions made over the last 10 years. 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.

The FY2018 federal budget is now in Congress’ hands, and many speculate that Trump’s budget is extremely unlikely to be approved as proposed. AmericanHort will be collaborating with national and state industry organizations to sustain these key federal investments.