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Capitol Hill 2019

Congress introduces ag research funding bill

America Grows Act authorizes a 5% increase in USDA’s research budget over the next five years.

In an effort to boost spending on agricultural research, Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and Reps. Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.), Kim Schrier (D., Wash.) and Jimmy Panetta (D., Cal.) introduced the America Grows Act, into the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

The legislation would authorize a 5% annual funding increase over the next five years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The America Grows Act would restore U.S. commitment to publicly-funded agriculture research, while most domestic agriculture research has declined.

Today, most domestic agriculture research is funded by large private-sector corporations. Moreover, among high-income countries, the U.S. share has declined from 35% in 1960 to less than 25% by 2013.  By comparison, in the past 30 years, Chinese investments in agriculture research has risen eight-fold.

The America Grows Act authorizes a 5% annual funding increase over the next five years for research activities at the USDA, specifically at the:

  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS) – USDA’s chief in-house scientific research agency with 90+ locations nationwide and overseas.
  • National Institute for Food & Agriculture (NIFA) – which funds external research through a nationwide network of land-grant colleges and universities, agricultural experiment stations, schools of forestry, schools of veterinary medicine and cooperative extension experts.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) – which collects and reports statistics on U.S. agriculture, such as the farm census, crop forecasts and price estimates.
  • Economic Research Service (ERS) – which provides economic and policy analysis on farming, ranching, food, conservation practices, farm management, commodity markets and rural economic development.

“We need to make big, bold investments in agricultural research to empower our farmers to compete across the world,” Bustos said. “Every dollar invested in agricultural research returns more than $20 to our economy, and critical research is needed to arm farmers with innovative tools to fight the growing climate crisis.”

“We have seen outstanding work come out of our research institutions, including Washington State University. With agriculture as one of the main drivers of our state’s economy, research and research funding are increasingly vital for farmers and growers to keep up with the changing economy and climate. The investment made by the America Grows Act will allow for consistent funding crucial for the future of agriculture in our state and country,” said Schrier.

“As the representative of the Salad Bowl of the World, including the Salinas Agricultural Research Station, I want to ensure that our producers have all of the tools they need to continue to innovate and compete in the global economy,” said Panetta, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and co-founder of the House Agriculture Research Caucus. “The America Grows Act is the type of strategic investment that will help support the future success of our agriculture industry and help our nation remain at the forefront of agricultural research and innovation.”

“The America Grows Act would ensure USDA has robust federal funding to make breakthroughs and foster innovation that keeps America competitive in the global marketplace,”  Durbin said. “If we want to compete with China when it comes to cutting-edge agricultural research, we must increase federal research funding in a bold and effective way.”

“The College of ACES shares in Congresswoman Bustos’s commitment to ensuring sustained federal investment in agricultural research and is grateful for her leadership in advocating for funding increases at USDA,” said Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It is critical that USDA has robust funding to continue supporting critical research at land-grant universities like our own to address the complexities of modern food and agricultural systems.”

Earlier this year, Bustos introduced her plan to combat climate change and spur economic growth in rural America – called the Rural Green Partnership – to the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. In the Rural Green Partnership, Bustos called for an increase of basic and applied research funding for farming practices and sustainable land uses and beyond.

TAGS: Policy
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