LINCOLN, NE – Nebraska agriculture groups have joined together to urge Congress to fully fund the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), which includes funding for the Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska, as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill. In a letter to U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, and Congressman Robert Aderholt, Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Pork Producers Association reiterated the importance of fully funding ARS.

“Without the necessary funding, meat animal research in Nebraska and general agriculture research nationwide would be greatly limited, causing economic harm to our nation’s farmers and ranchers who rely on research done by ARS to address critical issues in agriculture and food production,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.

The 2016 Agricultural Appropriation included language withholding five percent of total ARS appropriations, pending an investigation resulting from alleged wrongdoing related to animal welfare at MARC.

“Since then, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack has established an Animal Handling and Welfare Review Panel to investigate ARS animal care policies and the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have reviewed MARC practices and operations. Neither of these investigations has found any evidence of animal neglect or abuse at MARC,” said Barb Cooksley, Nebraska Cattlemen president.

The OIG Interim Report affirmed MARC’s protocols and practices were in line with industry norms, eliminating any reason for withholding funds from ARS in the 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

“Research is critical to agriculture. MARC is one of the largest and most respected facilities of its kind in the world. Research there has led to advance in nutrition enhancement, food safety and animal handling, in turn improving the competitiveness of American livestock producers,” said Russ Vering, Nebraska Pork Producers Association president.

In the letter, the groups reiterated the need for Congress to support scientific agriculture research, particularly in the face of animal rights extremists that continue to use misinformation to drive an agenda beyond improving animal welfare.
The House Appropriations Committee advanced their version of the 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill Wed., April 20. The measure included provisions to fully fund ARS.

“We greatly appreciate the actions of the House Appropriations Committee. We urge the Senate to follow suit in maintaining a strong foundation for agriculture research,” said Nelson.