Agricultural research threatened

MU could lose 100 faculty and staff under Bush’s proposed cuts.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:12 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Proposed federal budget cuts for agricultural research funding could have a significant effect on MU programs, said Chancellor Brady Deaton Monday.

“Depending on the severity of the cuts, this could have a very pronounced impact,” Deaton said.

As part of a 10 percent total budget decrease for the Department of Agriculture, the Bush administration has proposed cutting more than $100 million dollars in funding for agricultural research programs at land-grant universities including MU, the oldest land-grant university west of the Mississippi.

“We are looking at the loss of about 100 staff and faculty, which is impossible to offset,” Deaton said.

The proposed cuts would not only affect agricultural research money but also federal funds earmarked for other life sciences, such as agricultural extension programs, veterinarian sciences and the medical school, Deaton said.

The Bush administration’s proposed salve for this cut is to add about $70 million to competitive grants, under which the universities receive funding based on performance.

A growing portion of research funding has been moved to competitive grants over the past several years, Deaton said, but he’s not worried about MU being able to have its share of those funds.

“We have a great group of scientists,” he said.

“We are in the top 10 research programs. We represent 90 percent of the research taking place in Missouri. We’ll stay competitive.”

The change would not be without repercussions, including a possible threat to the job security of research scientists, Deaton said. “It is a major disruption if you ship funds off the formula and into grants,” he said, referring to the switch from the existing funding method.

The competitive nature of grant funding has one MU administrator worried that cooperation among universities will be negatively affected.

Tom Payne, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, could not be reached for comment Monday, but spoke to the Associated Press Saturday about the potential effects of the cuts.

“The bottom line is this is devastating to our cooperative efforts, and we will lose staff and faculty, and so will other land-grant institutions,” he said.

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