SoAR Foundation: White House Budget Request Takes Significant Steps to Fund Competitive Agricultural Research Grants Program

Contact: Dan Klotz, 301-280-5756 / dklotz@burness.com 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE SoAR Foundation: White House Budget Request Takes Significant Steps to Fund Competitive Agricultural Research Grants Program 

WASHINGTON, DC (February 10, 2020)—The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation applauds the Trump administration’s budget request of $600 million in FY2021 for the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). If approved by Congress, AFRI’s annual budget would move much closer to the 2008 Farm Bill authorization of $700 million; in FY2020 the program was funded at $425 million.

“We are encouraged by President Trump’s and Secretary Perdue’s budget request more funding for AFRI—we need to plow as much money and resources into agricultural research as possible,” said Thomas Grumbly, President of the SoAR Foundation. “The USDA’s entire R&D research operation needs to be fully funded. From the commodity markets to the extreme weather, 2019 was a difficult year for farmers. Farmers are struggling today, and they will not be able to face tomorrow’s challenges unless we can generate more innovation in the future.” 

In 2019, more than 20 million acres of farmland were destroyed in the US 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 US economy and disastrous results for US farmers. 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 last year. 

“Farmers incurred billions of dollars of losses in 2019 due to extreme weather,” said Thomas Grumbly. “Farmers in the Dakotas were hit particularly hard, facing severe droughts in the spring and state-of-emergency-level flooding in the fall. If AFRI had been fully funded since its inception in 2008, farmers today could have new, more resilient crops and farming methods that could withstand the conditions today. Failing to advance the White House budget proposal puts tomorrow’s farm yields—and the families they sustain—further at risk. 

AFRI provides grant funding through a competitive process in which proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed. AFRI was “authorized” with a $700 million budget in the 2008, 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. But this level has never been reached after annual federal budget negotiations conclude. As a result, the program typically provides funding to less than a quarter of the science that the program’s expert panels deem worthy. 

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.

 # # # 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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