Ag. Secretary Praises Agriculture Research Collaboration in Mississippi

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), today welcomed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s readiness to work with Congress to set appropriate funding levels for agriculture research and other programs.

Perdue testified Tuesday at a Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the administration’s FY2018 budget request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a veteran member of the agriculture subcommittee.

“Many people are looking at this year’s budget with hope and despair.  We’re going to go through a thoughtful process to determine appropriate funding levels for agriculture research and programs that support American producers,” Cochran said.  “Secretary Perdue has indicated his readiness to work with us through this important process.  I look forward to working with him to make appropriations available in a responsible way.”

Cochran focused on proposed funding levels for the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), which has a regional office headquartered in Stoneville.  The administration’s budget request would reduce funding for ARS as a part of a 21 percent funding reduction for the USDA overall.

Responding to Cochran, Perdue praised agriculture research conducted in Mississippi and pledged to “work to right-size the budget.”

“You and I were just at the Delta Council at the Stoneville research facility, which in my opinion is one of the best examples of the collaboration between our land grant universities in this case Mississippi State University, and our ARS of the USDA.  It was a seamless operation, and I don’t think those people even knew whether they had a Mississippi State shirt on, extension agent or ARS, the way they were working together collaboratively,” Perdue said.

“I think research is one of those areas where we may have missed the mark,” the Secretary continued.  “I believe we can work to right-size the budget because research is really the basis for our agricultural productivity today.”

Cochran also submitted questions to Perdue regarding the budget request to eliminate several programs, including:  the Water and Wastewater Grant program, which supports rural community water systems; and the Rural Business Cooperative Service, a loan and grant program to promote business and employment in rural areas.

Cochran attended Perdue’s keynote speech to the 82nd annual Delta Council Meeting in Mississippi last Friday.