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Corn Growers Ask for $50M to Support USAid s Genomics Efforts

NEW YORK, March 28 - The National Corn Growers Association was scheduled to appear before a House subcommittee on Wednesday to request an extra $50 million for the US Agency for International Development's fiscal year 2002 budget that would be dedicated to plant genomics and biotechnology.

Speaking on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Association and the American Society of Plant Physiologists, the NCGA said it would request that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs allocate the money as part of an effort to increase the world’s food supply and to improve the delivery of medicines.

"We decided to speak on behalf of the USAID because any research they can do that will lead to a tangible result is congruent with our goal of gaining international recognition for biotech,” David Uchich, a NCGA spokesman said. “Our long-term goal is to secure worldwide acceptance for biotech.”

Last week, the NCGA appealed to the Appropriations Committee to increase the National Science Foundation’s proposed budget for plant genome research by $25 million to $90 million. President George W. Bush’s proposed budget calls for a 2.3 percent increase in the NSF budget to $4.5 billion. In real terms, this amounts to a two percent drop in spending power.

The NCGA noted that plant biotechnology researchers were working to develop edible vaccines to the developing world, as well as helping to make more nutritious crops. An increased budget for USAID would also support US farmers and help spur international demand for US products and services, Uchich said.

Over the past few weeks, several advocates of more science spending have voiced concerns that Bush’s proposed budget does not go far enough to support genomics research as well as basic science.

Bush has proposed cutting the budgets of the Department of Agriculture to just $17.9 billion, from $19.4 billion in 2001, and of the Department of Energy to $19 billion, from $19.7 billion the previous year.

Under the proposed Budget, the NIH would receive a 14 percent increase in its budget to $23.1 billion.

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