Bush asks for Agriculture IT funding

Statement of Administration Policy

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The White House called on the Senate this week to reinstate more than $75 million in fiscal 2004 funding for information technology infrastructure and homeland security programs at the Agriculture Department.

In its statement of policy on the fiscal 2004 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, the administration highlighted what it views as critical shortfalls in the Senate's budget for USDA. The request includes money necessary to meet requirements under the Government Information Security Act of 2000 to fix financial management systems and modernize other agency systems.

Senators cut $58 million from the agency's Common Computing Environment initiative, "which will slow progress on implementing a geographical information system that would improve USDA's ability to effectively administer commodity and conservation programs, as well as to track natural disasters, animal and plant disease outbreaks, and bio-terrorism events," according to the statement.

The Senate also turned down a $16 million request for a Regional Diagnostic Network. The network, established in fiscal 2002 with supplemental homeland security funding, would bring together the National Animal Health Laboratory and National Plant Diagnostic networks to identify and respond to high-risk pathogens in agricultural systems.

"Without funding, university and state partner labs may not continue to participate in the network, and weaken homeland security needs," the administration said.

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