Food and Agriculture Need a Bigger Piece of the Funding Pie

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, “agriculture, food, and, related industries contributed $1.109 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, a 5.2-percent share,” and account for 10.9 percent of U.S. employment.[1] Our rural communities, farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers are at the epicenter of multiple challenges facing our country: the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the need to strengthen and ensure parity in our interconnected food and agricultural systems, and competition with other countries to feed the growing world population while still meeting our country’s nutritional needs. As we celebrate National Agriculture Week, strengthening investments in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs will help rebuild rural America, improve our agriculture and food systems, safeguard our national security, and provide solutions to climate change and additional resources for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers, ranchers, and producers.

Our founder, Dr. William Danforth, said: “Food is too important to the human race to be a research afterthought.” We continue Dr. Danforth’s fight by collaborating with others. Recently, the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation led an effort to get 92 other food and agriculture related organizations and entities on a letter strongly urging the Congressional Appropriations and Budget committees to increase the share (called 302(b)’s) of the overall funding pie (called 302(a)’s) of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittees. This would increase the discretionary funding for crucial U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. If we can get a bigger piece of the pie (increased 302(b)’s), then there’s more funding for all of USDA’s programs, including agricultural research. SoAR will continue to work with our partners to educate the Congress about the importance of all USDA programs.

As compared to other appropriations subcommittees, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittees received a mere 13.6 percent increase over six fiscal years, $20.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2015 to $23.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2021. Rural America, agriculture, and food security is crucial to our national security, and USDA’s programs should reflect similar levels of investment of other agencies within other subcommittees. For example, the Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittees had increased funding for the agencies under their jurisdiction from $34.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2015 to $49.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2021, a 44.7 percent increase. The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittees also had increased funding for their agencies from $50.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2015 to $71.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2021, a 41.9 percent increase. Over the same time period, the total discretionary funding for the Federal government increased 27 percent.

We know we are not in this alone, and by working together with organizations and entities across the food and agriculture spectrum, we can make a difference for rural America and agricultural research.

By Josh Stull, Vice President, Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation

[1] https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/ag-and-food-sectors-and-the-economy/

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