SoAR Foundation Highlights Proposed $700 Million Funding Request for USDA’s Flagship Competitive Research Program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative
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WASHINGTON, DC (June 1, 2021)—The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation applauds the $4 billion in proposed funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) research and development (R&D) programs—also referred to as research, education, and outreach programs—in the President’s FY 2022 Budget Request. If enacted, the funding increase would be 16%, $647 million, above the FY 2021 enacted level.
“With climate change already at our front door and U.S. farmers laboring to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to significantly increase public investments in all R&D programs at USDA,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation.
Roger Beachy, the first director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and current SoAR Board member stated, “Funding USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at the level specified in the Farm Bill—$700 million—will also continue to highlight the importance of competitively funded research as an effective process that provides grants for the most deserving research proposals—for example, to develop more climate resilient crops and animals, and abundant and safe foods produced in a sustainable manner.”
As the USDA’s flagship competitive grants program for agricultural research within NIFA, AFRI uses a rigorous peer-reviewed process to recommend the best research for funding. The program has been authorized by the past three Farm Bills at $700 million, but is currently funded at $435 million annually. Depending on the fiscal year, as much as three-quarters of AFRI proposals that are deemed worthy by expert review panels go unfunded because not enough funds are available.
“The federal share of overall R&D spending as a percentage of GDP is now at its lowest point since the 1950s, and food and agriculture lags even further behind most other Federal R&D areas,” Thomas Grumbly noted in written testimony provided to the House Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations today. “Agricultural research funding at USDA has remained fairly flat over the last 50 years. In contrast, funding for other Federal research agencies has increased 10- to 20-fold during the same period.”
The decrease in federally funded agricultural research has allowed competitors such as China and Brazil—which have plowed more resources into the agricultural sciences—to elbow American farmers aside in key commodities markets. Increased funding of USDA’s research and development (R&D) programs—the Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA, which houses the AFRI program)—will serve not just to boost farm yields but also to bolster prospects in international markets.
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About the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation
The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation leads a non-partisan coalition working to educate stakeholders about the importance of agricultural research. For the past seven years, SoAR has supported increased investments to encourage top scientists to create agricultural solutions that improve public health and food security, and enhance economic competitiveness. For more information, please visit www.supportagresearch.org.