A coalition of agriculture groups, including specialty crop associations, are protesting Congressional cuts of more than $130 million to research projects.

More than 40 agricultural associations, groups and companies, including Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association and Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, sent a letter April 1 to Democrat and Republican leaders of the House Appropriations Committee. The groups are concerned about the elimination of more than $130 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture budgets with the passage of House Joint Resolution 48.

The legislation, passed in mid-March, cuts $2 billion per week in federal spending until it expires April 8.

Through April 4, Congress still had not finished a funding package for the operation of the federal government through the entire fiscal year 2011.

The short-term continuing resolution HJR 48 cut $89 million from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and $42 million from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

“Specifically, NIFA and ARS funding supports vital research essential to combat pests and diseases, address food safety and security issues, environmental compliance and to enhance the nutritional value of certain crops,” according to the letter.

What’s more, the letter said agricultural research can deliver 30-to-1 investment returns to taxpayers.

“These are relatively small programs, but the research that goes on under them is quite valuable,” said Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm.

“We believe that the costs of eliminating this funding, and thereby these research functions, far outweigh any immediate benefit in regard to spending reduction,” according to the letter.