Washington, DC (June 4, 2019)—The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation applauds the House Appropriations Committee for increasing Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funding to $445 million during today’s full committee mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If enacted, these levels would provide a $30 million increase from FY 2019 enacted levels.
“Erratic weather continues to hammer farmers and food producers across the country,” said Thomas Grumbly, President of the SoAR Foundation. “They need new ways to handle the disruptive conditions being thrown at their operations, and this requires investing in the science that underpins the innovations needed. We thank the committee for its strong bipartisan support of AFRI, and we look forward to getting this increase enacted into law this fiscal year.”
Flooding in the U.S. heartland has significantly delayed this year’s corn and soy plantings. According to the USDA’s June 3 Crop Progress report, only 67% of the expected corn acreage has been planted so far this year, compared to an average of 96% over the past five years. Soy plantings have fared poorly as well, with only 39% of expected acreage planted compared to a five-year average of 79% at this time. The late start to the plantings could significantly limit farmers’ yields unless their fields see near-perfect weather conditions for the rest of the growing season. Farmers need these investments in agricultural research to provide innovation that supports their operations.
AFRI is USDA’s flagship competitive grants program. Funding is based on merit, and proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed. This process ensures that AFRI grants apply the best scientific research to the challenges that farmers and consumers face. With a limited annual budget, however, the program typically provides funding to less than a quarter of the science that the program’s expert panels deem worthy.
The program is currently authorized at $700 million but has never received this full amount during the annual appropriations process. This latest $30 million increase from the House Appropriations Committee demonstrates a strong commitment to the program.
The scope of the program includes a wide range of food and agricultural topics and has provided key breakthroughs including how eating broccoli reduces certain cancer risks, pinpointing how heat stress impacts pork production, and discovering how to reduce the allergen load of peanuts.