In the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2005, passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush last week, Cornell University received over $10 million toward the construction of new research facilities and the funding of additional research projects. U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), a member of the House appropriations committee and its agriculture subcommittee, helped secure the funding for Cornell.
“This is great news for Cornell, for New York and for the agriculture industry,” Hinchey said in a statement. “I am pleased that we earmarked these funds and only wish that more funds had been available.”
Hinchey secured $3 million to build the Center for Health-Based Plant Genomics at the University’s Ithaca campus. He also worked with other members of the New York legislative delegation to provide $3 million for new construction of the Grape Genetics Research Center and Laboratory at Cornell’s technology park in Geneva, N.Y.
The plans for the center call for it to be a national location for research and development of health-based value-added crops. Researchers will be using advanced plant breeding techniques and genomic sequencing. Over $3 million was given to Cornell last year for the project’s design and site preparation.
According to a statement released by Hinchey, the Grape Genetics Research Center will be a state-of-the-art facility with laboratories, offices, common areas and greenhouses. The new building attempts to address crowding in the existing Geneva facilities and allows for additional space for the programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and the University.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) commented on the passage of this bill last week. “Improving science for our farmers is very important,” Schumer said. “This funding will help build a new center for grape genetic research in Geneva and help the Finger Lakes area to become one [of] the premier centers for agriculture research in the country.”
According to a statement released by Schumer, research will be conducted at the new center in order to improve the yield and quality of wine, table and juice grapes in hopes of strengthening the grape industry in New York state.
“This funding will … provide scientists at the University with the lab space and resources they need,” Schumer added. At the center, researchers will focus on plants as a source of nutrients and health-promoting compounds for humans and livestock.
Hinchey also secured more than $10 million for Cornell research projects to be conducted in Ithaca and Geneva. According to Hinchey, President Bush had attempted to eliminate funding for these projects.
“I commend my colleagues for rejecting that foolish approach and recognizing the importance of Cornell’s work,” Hinchey said. “The projects funded by these earmarks are very important locally, while also meeting a national interest or priority. I’m gratified to be able to help with these worthy efforts and I will continue to use my position on the appropriations committee to help area projects.”
As part of this $388 billion omnibus appropriations bill, Tompkins County was also given $500,000 for a public safety communications system project. Tompkins County Area Transit received $250,000 toward the purchase of hybrid diesel public transit coaches to replace current diesel fuel buses and additionally received $100,000 to increase transit service in areas with high concentrations of welfare recipients and low-income populations. Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport received $500,000 to relocate a taxiway to meet a mandated minimum separation distance requirement between runways.
“We do rely very heavily on [federal funding] … to make it all work,” said airport manager Robert Nicholas to the Ithaca Journal.