WASHINGTON, DC (February 3, 2015)—The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation applauds the Obama administration’s budget request of $700 million in FY2017 for the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). If approved by Congress, the increase would double AFRI’s annual budget and fulfill the Congressional authorization passed eight years ago when the program was established as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.
“We are very encouraged by President Obama and Secretary Vilsack’s budget request, which recognizes the need to reinvigorate agricultural research to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” said Dr. William Danforth, the SoAR Foundation’s Board Chair and Chancellor Emeritus of Washington University in St. Louis. “More agricultural research will benefit all of us by accelerating innovation and helping to solve the problems farmers face in their fields and families face in putting food on the dinner table.”
The competitive process that AFRI uses to award grants applies the best scientific research to the challenges that farmers and consumers face. Funding is based on merit, and proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed.
In the last four years, AFRI’s review process identified $3.85 billion in grants worthy of funding. However, with a limited annual budget, the program could only award $950 million—less than a quarter of the science that the program’s expert panels deemed worthy.
“The recent avian flu outbreak and historic drought in California emphasized the need for more innovations in agriculture,” said Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a SoAR Foundation board member. “A fully funded AFRI will attract the best scientists and stimulate needed research to address national priorities like food safety, public health, plant and animal science, and increasing production.”
In the 1940s, almost 40 percent of American research and development spending was focused on agriculture. Today, agriculture research only accounts for 2 percent of federal research and development spending. According to the USDA, total agricultural production has slowed significantly since the turn of the century.
“With this budget, the Administration has assured agricultural research as part of its legacy,” said Thomas Grumbly, the SoAR Foundation’s President. “It’s now Congress’ turn to make this a priority for the sake of our economic competitiveness, national security, and the well-being of people today and into the future.”