Washington, DC (September 22, 2017) — Zippy Duvall, a third-generation farmer from Georgia who leads the American Farm Bureau Federation, is joining the board of directors of the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation. The move comes as the urgency of agricultural research is increasingly debated in Washington DC and around the country.
“Agricultural research and investment have given American farmers and ranchers a firm foundation to battle the challenges of the twenty-first century,” Duvall said. “The Farm Bureau clearly supports ongoing efforts to elevate food, agricultural and natural resources research as a national priority. We also strongly support SoAR’s mission to focus resources on competitively based research and I’m pleased to become a member of the board.”
China, one of the US’s primary competitors in the global marketplace, invests more than twice as much as the US in agriculture research. And while US investments in other sciences continues to grow, the USDA’s share of the entire federal research budget has dropped: it was 40 percent in the 1940s, 6.5 percent in the early 1970s, and under 3.5 percent today.
“Since his election as president of the American Farm Bureau, Zippy Duvall has been a strong advocate for science in the agricultural community,” said Thomas Grumbly, President of the SoAR Foundation. “Many people might forget that agriculture contributes one trillion dollars to the American economy and forms the backbone of our export strength, but Zippy will be the first to remind you—and will not miss the opportunity to mention how it could all fall apart without more research innovations.”
The SoAR Foundation works with a non-partisan coalition of scientific, consumer and producer groups to promote the importance of federally funded agricultural research and, in particular, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)—the flagship competitively awarded grant program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The competitive process that AFRI uses to award grants applies the best scientific research to the challenges that farmers and consumers face. Funding is based on merit, and proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed. In the last four years, AFRI’s review process identified $3.85 billion in grants worthy of funding. However, with a limited annual budget, the program could only award $950 million—less than a quarter of the science that the program’s expert panels deemed worthy.
In FY 2017, AFRI’s budget totaled $375 million, just over half of what was authorized for the program in the last farm bill. SoAR has been working with the American Farm Bureau Federation and its other coalition partners to not only secure a larger authorization in the next farm bill, but to also persuade Congress to increase the actual budget every fiscal year.
Other new board members who have joined SoAR in the past year include:
• Rose Barbuto, Executive Director of External Relations, Farm Journal Foundation
• Ellen Bergfeld, Chief Executive Officer of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)
• Ronnie Green, Chancellor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln