02.20.2020

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.

# # #

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.

More Stories from the community

Launch of Congressional Agriculture Research Caucus Shows Support for Farmers and Food on Both Political Parties—Just in Time for the 2018 Farm Bill Negotiations

Thanks to leadership from Rep. Rodney Davis and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, the momentum continues to grow for a stronger science capacity within the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). While the caucus will look at emphasizing research programming in the 2018 Farm Bill negotiations, we also hope they focus on the fiscal year 2018 budget and push back on the cuts to the USDA proposed by the White House.

Read More
SoAR Joins 66 Organizations in Call to Double Ag Research Funding

The coalition’s letter to Congress outlines 10 specific policy recommendations, including funding recommendations aimed at new investments in public food and agriculture research and extension. It also presents policy recommendations focused on improving the coordination, oversight, efficiency, competitiveness, and responsiveness of our nation’s public agricultural research, education, and extension system.

Read More
New SoAR Report Identifies Priorities for Global Plant Research

SoAR has released a new report entitled “Developing Global Priorities for Plant Research”. The report presents a concise set of plant-focused research recommendations to inform the decision-making of agricultural research funders. It is the result of a series of interviews and an in-person meeting with twelve leading plant scientists from Europe, China, and the United States.

Read More