National Barley Improvement Committee leads coalition supporting the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative
  • 05/18/2023

National Barley Improvement Committee leads coalition supporting the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative

A series of letters were sent to Congress today expressing support for maintaining funding levels for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative (USWBSI) and seeking an increase in the authorized funding levels in the next Farm Bill. The National Barley Improvement Committee, supported by the American Malting Barley Association, led this coalition building effort which included thirty-seven key U.S. leaders in the wheat and barley industries. 

The first set of letters were directed towards appropriators in the House and Senate, stating opposition to the cuts presented in the President’s budget to USDA-ARS extramural research funding. These cuts included elimination of $8.7 million from the USWBSI despite the initiative being fully funded at the current authorization level of $15 million since 2020. The second set of letters proposes an increased authorization in the Farm Bill from $15 million to $20 million to support rising labor and equipment costs that are exacerbated by supply chain challenges. Diminishing funds threaten the ability of the research community to continue making progress against this devastating fungal disease.

This critical funding supports the USWBSI’s stakeholder-driven approach along with USDA-ARS base funding, both aimed at identifying and providing research-based solutions to the Fusarium Head Blight (FHB or scab) problem in wheat and barley. Scab significantly affects the yield and quality of wheat and barley, and its associated mycotoxins contaminate the grain, resulting in losses for U.S. growers, processors, and end users. The USWBSI’s effective model is built around a federal, state, grower, and industry partnership that leverages state and federal research infrastructures to address scab through a coordinated national program. According to a 2017 economic study, a $1 investment in the USWBSI results in a return of $71. 

This coalition is hopeful Congress will see the value in the continuation of this critical research and propose funding to the full authorization level and pursue increased authorization in the future Farm Bill. You can read the full letters and access the list of supporters in the coalition here.