On Wednesday, October 21, the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will hold a hearing on the federal regulation of agriculture biotechnology. This is an important event—not just because the Senate is tackling a critical issue for both consumers and food producers, but because the importance of agricultural science is taking center stage in Congress.
Agricultural research was once the biggest science field in which the US government invested.After World War II, 40 percent of all federal research dollars went to the food sciences. But now, even though the overall amount of federal research has grown tremendously, agricultural research is only two percent of the total science budget.
More research would help farmers throughout the country handle a wide variety threats—including drought, floods, pests and weeds—and that’s only considering the problems before harvest.
In an opinion piece that ran in the Omaha World Herald, Steve Wellman, SoAR Foundation board member and past president of the American Soybean Association, wrote about what he was missing:
“Here in Nebraska, we could use more science to improve the growing season forecasts. We could also use hardier plants that produce higher yields, along with new ways to improve how we farm.”
Biotechnology is a critical part of the solutions that answer Wellman’s needs. As we examine the solutions already at hand, however, there is a continuing need for more answers—those that solve additional problems now and in the future.
We look forward to working with both the Senate and the House as budget priorities are being discussed to ensure that agricultural research can handle all of these problems, including the ones we don’t even know exist.