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Morris soil labs stays open under House appropriations bill

The House Appropriations bill does not include the closure of the USDA soils lab in Morris. Photo courtesy of the USDA lab Morris

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved the 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill July 12 a news release from the committee said. That bill includes some good news for the North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris.

The USDA ARS lab in Morris and 16 others were slated to be closed in President Donald Trump's budget. The House appropriations committee does not agree with those proposed closures.

"The committee does not concur with the proposed closure of the 17 research facilities in the budget request...," the committee report says on page 15.

Liz Friedlander, the Democratic communications director for the House Ag Committee, said that line is most important. "(The labs) are not slated to cut from the House bill," she said.

The report said the committee "is concerned about the continued trend towards reductions in on-the-ground agricultural research through proposed cutbacks and consolidations without a clear plan to ensure that the research reflects local needs and growing conditions."

Although the report said the committee recognizes the need to increase efficiencies as research matures and objectives are met, it directs the ARS to provide a report that comprehensively evaluates current research and its facilties. Future budget requests with proposals to close research facilities should include this information to make sure closures don't jeopardize long term research objectives, the report said.

The bill is $4.64 billion more than President Donald Trump's budget request but $876 million lower than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level, the news release said. The bill totals $20 billion in discretionary funding, the release said.

The full House still needs to vote on the agriculture appropriations bill and the Senate needs to approve its own version.

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