A new coalition has come together to encourage further support of specialty crops with increased IR-4 funding. The IR-4 Project was initially established in 1963 to aid in the development of new crop protection materials. The Friends of IR-4 coalition formed nearly a year ago for the purpose of educating lawmakers on the value of the IR-4 Project.
“We did outreach to a number of folks on Capitol Hill asking for an increase in funding to the budget. It’s currently been flat and set at $11.9 million annually for many years,” said David Beaudreau, Senior Vice President with DC Legislative and Regulatory Services. “Less than half of the total number that its authorized for is actually funded under current appropriations. We went in last year asking for an increase to $20 million hoping we would be able to get something close to that number.”
Members of the coalition include California Leafy Greens Research Program, Marrone Bio Innovations, North American Blueberry Council, and the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. Friends of IR-4 indicate that increasing costs of research and development have exacerbated the challenges related to stagnate funding levels. New research efforts undertaken by the IR-4 Project have declined by approximately 14 percent over the past three years.
Beaudreau explained that they had some success with both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Last year, each committee authorized an increase in IR-4 funding to at least $14 million. While not the degree of funding support that the coalition was advocating for, it was still seen as a victory.
“The challenge though is that Congress has not passed a budget and has continued to have a Continuing Resolution since that time,” said Beaudreau. “Even though several of these bills did pass through their committees of jurisdiction last spring and summer in the appropriation cycle, they were not included in a larger omnibus package. So, the funding still remains at that $11.9 million number.”
IR-4 has played an essential role in bringing pest control solutions to the crops that can often be overlooked by the overall crop protection industry. The Friends of IR-4 coalition aims to increase understanding of the vital nature of continued investment in pest control solutions for the specialty crop industry.