Update on the funding status of the IR-4 Project and Integrated Pest Management Programs.
If you recall, last February, the Obama Administration in the fiscal year 2013 Budget plan eliminated funding for IR-4 Project and proposed to consolidate IR-4 Project funds with funds from various IPM programs into a new Crop Protection Program (CPP). In response to this proposal, specialty crop growers and associated industries voiced their concerns to Congress and USDA about the impact of this plan on IR-4 and urged them to remove IR-4 from this consolidation plan. Though Congress has not passed a final funding plan for agriculture for 2013, both the House of Representatives and the Senate maintained IR-4 as a separate program in their respective funding proposals. It is believed that Congress is against the President’s plan based on the many comments, letter, emails and calls they received to maintain IR-4 as a separate program and funding line [most of which came from The Friends of IR-4].
Concurrent to the activities of the Obama Administration, the American Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), a Washington, D.C., based umbrella organization representing the interests of the state land grant universities, established a committee to draft an alternative plan. APLU has taken this step because of what they say is concern that many of the publically funded pest management research programs could be “picked off” and eliminated during upcoming deficit reduction battles unless they are consolidated into a larger single budget line. Their plan proposes the establishment of a new Integrated Pest Management Program, and IR-4 is considered to be an “Essential Element” of this plan. The guiding principles of the APLU plan include protection and maintaining funding for the IR-4 Project as well as Extension IPM and the Regional Pest Management Centers. The APLU plan desires to maintain the intent and fiscal equivalency of the programs. The plan also proposes the establishment of a National IPM Coordinator and a IPM Coordinating/Administrative Council for shared leadership and decision making at a national level including decisions about IR-4 and IPM program priorities and funding.
There are certain aspects of the APLU plan that may be desirable including maintaining IR-4 as a distinct program with protected funding. There are however major concerns including the associated costs of the proposed new National IPM Coordinator position and its administrative staff. Another major concern is how IR-4 will operate and function under this plan. Because of the vagueness of the APLU plan which include; concerns on how it is to be implemented and questions regarding additional administrative costs and oversight, I cannot endorse the plan.
It is anticipated that USDA will modify their consolidation proposal and a new proposal will be issued by the President in February but at this date it is unclear if IR-4 will be included any updated USDA proposed consolidation plans. Furthermore, we expect that APLU will be working with their professional lobbying firm "Cornerstone Government Affairs" to try and push their alternative plan through Congress. With that in mind, we need to remain diligent in monitoring all activities associated with this issue, meeting with key and new members of Congress so our concerns and views on the issue remain at the forefront. Depending on several factors, the support of the broad based network of IR-4 supporters referred to as the "Friends of IR-4" may need to be solicited to stand together in a grassroots effort to urge Congress to maintain a strong and viable IR-4 Project so it can continue to effectively serve the needs of specialty crop growers in gaining new registrations of necessary pesticide registrations for our crops.
I ask you…..1) let me know if you have any information or hear anything in the future on this topic and 2) stay tuned as The Friends of IR-4 may need to reengage in support of protecting the IR-4 program we all need.
USDA’s Proposed 2013 Budget Threatens the Elimination of the IR-4 Program
By the Friends of IR-4 March 6th, 2012
The IR-4 Project was established by Congress in 1963 to assist domestic growers of fruits, vegetables, herbs, ornamentals and other specialty crops by facilitating through US EPA the registration of safe and effective technology to protect these high value crops from insects, plant diseases, weeds and other pests. In FY 2012, IR-4 was funded by Congress under USDA-NIFA Research and Extension Activities at $11.913 million. Additionally, USDA-ARS was provided with slightly less than $4.0 million for a companion research effort.
President Obama, in his FY2013 budget plan, eliminated funding for Minor Crop Pest Management (IR-4) and proposed to consolidate IR-4 Project funds with funds from various IPM programs into a new project called Crop Protection. Specialty crop producers are very concerned as to how this budget consolidation will eliminate the activities of the IR-4 Project to support research for pesticide labeling for specialty crops. Specialty crop growers believe that now, more than ever, adequate funding for the IR-4 Project is absolutely necessary to assist them to provide the public with safe fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants at a reasonable price.
The Friends of IR-4 does not support the lumping of IR-4 with other line items in the budget. The IR-4 has a long history of supporting U.S. agriculture and we believe that continuing IR-4 funding as a separate line item is in the best interest of Specialty Crops.