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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century
of the origins and provisions of the formula grant program can be found in Kerr, 1987.) In 1887 the Hatch act provided annual funding to support state agricultural experiment stations. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established cooperative extension programs at the land grant colleges. In 1962, the McIntire-Stennis Act gave funding to public colleges and universities for forestry research and graduate programs.
USDA agencies that conduct a significant amount of plant-biology research include the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Cooperative State Research Service (CSRS), and the Forest Service (FS). ARS and CSRS are under the Assistant Secretary for Science and Education and FS is under the Assistant Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment. CSRS supports research scientists primarily associated with land-grant college and university agriculture experiment stations (AES). ARS and FS have intramural research programs in agriculture and forestry, respectively. USDA intramural research is also performed at research centers and by scientists located at universities.
The primary focus of this analysis of USDA plant-biology research is on CSRS and its three principal mechanisms of support. These are formula funding to State Agricultural Experiment Stations associated with land-grant colleges and universities, Special Research Grants that are either Congressionally earmarked to specific research programs or are awarded competitively, and competitive grants.
Formula funding is commonly referred to as base support for agriculture experiment station scientists and is spent largely at the discretion of individual AES directors. The majority of the funds are used for salary support.
The CSRS competitive grants program under the National Research Initiative supports peer-reviewed, investigator-initiated grants in six major categories, two of which, plant systems and natural resources and the environment, are directly relevant to plant-biology research. When the NRI is fully funded, $250 million annually will be devoted to supporting grants in these two categories.