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The Daily Tar Heel

Bush Plan Threatens Research

The Bush plan would cut $150 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's budget, possibly eliminating federal funding for N.C. State University's research on hog waste disposal.

N.C. State receives approximately $2.7 million from the federal government, $470,000 of which goes toward researching alternatives to hog lagoons.

The N.C. State Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center was created with federal funding and the school has generally relied on that money, along with state funds, to support the center's research programs said Johnny Wynne, N.C. State associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In the past, the state funded the salaries of the center's staff and director. But the State Committee on Education recently cut the center's funding, placing a greater importance on federal dollars.

"If both state and federal funding is lost, then it is a serious problem," Wynne said. "There are no solutions yet, so it makes us worried and nervous."

N.C. State could possibly survive the budget cut because Smithfield Foods -- the largest pork producer in the country -- pledged $15 million to help the school find alternatives to hog lagoons.

But Brad Woodhouse, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., said Etheridge opposes the budget cut, and would fight to make sure N.C. State receives funding. "The Smithfield Food agreement provides money for applied research -- money used once N.C. State has done enough basic research to begin testing out in the farms."

But the biggest problem with the loss of federal funding would be the time frame for the research, Wynne said.

As part of the Smithfield agreement, N.C. State pledged that it would evaluate the cost-effectiveness of hog lagoon alternatives within 24 months, but a loss of federal funding would make maintaining that schedule difficult.

Keith Williams, communications director for the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, defended the proposal and said it has nationwide implications that would affect research nationwide. "Animal waste is a hot topic and a big issue you can easily make a case for."

Williams said the problem with the system now is that research programs often receive funding when they are earmarked by a congressman.

He explained that the approval of a $150 million budget cut translates into a review of funding to see where cuts should be made -- not an instantaneous research funding slash.

Wynne said the school is asking hog farmers and other people with a vested interest in N.C. State's hog waste research to contact their representatives to encourage funding but warned that the government has not yet made its decision. "We definitely have concerns, but it is still early in the budget process."

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