(March 30) Research functions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture are likely to be reorganized this year, based on the number of plans to revise the current system.

But how the reorganization looks depends on how lawmakers craft it in the 2007 farm bill, or if they even address it in the farm bill.

One bill to reorganize the research functions, Senate Bill 971, was introduced by Sens. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on March 22.

Called the National Institute for Food and Agriculture Research Act of 2007, the bill would boost federal investment in agricultural research to “help keep America’s farmers competitive in the world market,” according to a Harkin news release.

The Bond-Harkin legislation would implement recommendations from the USDA Research, Education and Economics task force established in the 2002 farm bill. The legislation would establish a National Institute for Food and Agriculture at USDA, to supplement ongoing research there.

The legislation would allocate $3.4 billion in federal funds over the next five years. In the news release, Harkin and Bond said it would not replace USDA’s current research, extension, and education programs.

Another idea for reorganizing agriculture research comes from the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. That group has put forward the CREATE-21 plan (Creating Research, Extension, and Teaching Excellence for the 21st Century), establishing NIFA but consolidating all USDA research within it.

A third option has been advanced by the Bush administration. The USDA’s farm bill proposes to merge the Agricultural Research Service and the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service, said Lowell Randel, director of legislative and intergovernmental affairs for the Office of the Undersecretary at USDA.