12.11.2018

New Farm Bill Supports Competitive Agricultural Research by Setting Scientific Priorities for Public Funding

WASHINGTON, DC (December 11, 2018) -House and Senate leaders released the 2018 Farm Bill conference committee report, which includes public investments in research to help U.S. farmers meet the challenges facing the future of agriculture.

“We thank legislators for working together to create a Farm Bill that supports the immediate needs of U.S. agriculture,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation. “Farmers will need even more scientific innovation to feed the world’s growing population to ensure a safe, affordable, and sustainable harvest in the future.”

The research and extension title in the Farm Bill authorizes public funding for agricultural research and provides policy guidance for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, such as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The conference report points to the priority areas featured in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) consensus report “Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030” as key drivers for identifying research opportunities in agriculture.

“The Breakthroughs 2030 report shows where research investments can be leveraged to provide the greatest impact,” said Grumbly. “By rallying the scientific community, we can reestablish the U.S. as a global leader in agricultural research and continue to meet challenges facing producers.”

Grumbly pointed to a number of other positive outcomes for agricultural research in the Farm Bill text:

  • New and increased mandatory funding for several USDA competitive research programs, including organics, urban farming, and specialty crops;
  • Reauthorization of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research;
  • Reducing barriers to participation by removing matching-grant requirements for USDA-NIFA competitive research programs; and
  • Opening the door to greater international collaboration in areas of U.S. national interest, such as combating pest and diseases.

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), USDA-NIFA’s flagship competitive grants program, is reauthorized for $700 million in funding under the new bill.

“We appreciate that legislators see the value of investing in USDA-NIFA’s AFRI program,” said Grumbly. “but more is needed. This is a down payment on our future and more funding will ensure we have an abundant, safe, and nutritious food supply in the face of climate change and other challenges for generations to come.”

USDA-NIFA AFRI is a discretionary program, which means the annual appropriations process determines its funding levels each year based on the amount authorized by the current Farm Bill. To date, USDA-NIFA AFRI is receiving $400 million per year in the appropriations process – only 57 percent of its authorized levels.

“We look forward to working with the appropriations committee to make this $700 million USDA-NIFA AFRI authorization a reality for agricultural research,” said Grumbly.

 

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