SoAR Foundation Welcomes USDA Focus on Sustainability and Productivity Research

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 20, 2020

Contact: Dan Klotz, 347-307-2866, dklotz@burness.com  

Statement from Thomas Grumbly, President, Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation

The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation congratulates US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue and his entire agency on focusing this year on agricultural research and innovation.

After the warmest January on the planet, the Midwest is expecting a deep freeze. The deep south is waterlogged from record floods, and California is wrapping up one of its driest Februaries ever. It’s the perfect time to start talking about agricultural research and desperately needed federal funding.

The announced sustainability initiative from the USDA—which will push for a 40% increase in farm productivity over the next 30 years—comes after the roll out of a “Science Blueprint” in early February, which listed climate adaptation as one of its five primary themes. This was followed by a federal budget proposal that would increase the scope of the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)—the agency’s premier source of competitively awarded research grants—by more than 40%.

Farmers have been figuring out how to handle adverse weather since the start of farming, really, but last year was crazy:

·         In 2019, almost 20 million acres of farmland were destroyed in the U.S. by floods.

·         Overall, 2019 was both the second wettest and second hottest year on record, generating 14 weather and climate disasters that caused more than $1 billion in economic damages for the U.S. economy and disastrous results for U.S. farmers.

·         At the end of January 2020 in North Dakota, only 49% of the corn planted in 2019 had yet to be cleared—a 10-year high.

·         Family farm bankruptcies in 2019 were up 20% compared to 2018, with Wisconsin and Georgia leading the country in this tragic category. Ten states reached record levels.

More science is desperately needed. The weather challenges are far outpacing the innovations capable in the field. In 2018, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a comprehensive blueprint for transforming agriculture so that it can face the challenges of the coming decades. USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda will work from this blueprint to focus its initial work on the most important opportunities.

As Congress begins negotiations over the FY2021 budget, we urge political leaders in both parties to prioritize agricultural research. None of this essential work can take place without more federal funding.

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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 (AFRI) 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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