07.8.2020

As Storm Clouds Darken Farm Revenue Projections, SoAR Foundation Applauds Funding Increase for USDA’s Flagship Competitive Science Program Proposed by House Subcommittee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, please contact: Katy Lenard, +1-301-280-5719 or klenard@burness.com

WASHINGTON DC (July 8, 2020)—The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation welcomes the proposed $435 million in FY2021 funding for the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) that was included in legislation considered by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

As the USDA’s flagship competitive grants program for agricultural research, AFRI uses a rigorous peer-reviewed process to recommend funding for the best research. The program is authorized at $700 million, but is currently funded at $425 million annually, leaving crucial research unfunded.

“The COVID-19 economic downturn has hit farmers even harder than the erratic weather patterns of the past few years,”said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation. “With so many variables to contend with, farmers need new innovations so that their operations can continue to feed the country—and the world. This proposed increase illustrates the commitment by Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Fortenberry, and their fellow subcommittee members to help provide the resources needed to find long-term innovation solutions for our farmers.”

Before the pandemic, USDA projected net farm income to only increase 1.4% when adjusted for inflation—30.5% below the peak reached in 2013. But this spring, COVID-19 has further clouded the financial outlook for farmers. Now, farmers face estimated losses of more than $20 billion this year, after 2019 saw a 20% increase in family farm bankruptcies. 

According to the USDA, AFRI-supported research on plant breeding is helping develop new cultivars for many critical crops. Fifteen percent of U.S. wheat acreage is planted using cultivars resulting from AFRI investments. AFRI investments have also produced new diagnostic methods for animal diseases, genetic resources for row crops and livestock, and alternatives to antimicrobials used to prevent disease in livestock, all of which have helped U.S. farmers remain competitive in the global marketplace.

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 About the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation

The SoAR Foundation leads a non-partisan coalition working to educate stakeholders about the importance of agricultural research and focus more of our best minds on feeding America and the world. The SoAR Foundation advocates for full funding for the Agriculture Food and Research Initiative to encourage top scientists from multiple disciplines to address agriculture-related challenges in order to improve public health and strengthen our economic competitiveness.

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