WASHINGTON, DC (June 25, 2019)—The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation applauds the $45 million increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the USDA’s flagship science program, in the USDA budget for fiscal year 2020 that was passed by the House of Representatives. The House Appropriations Committee notes within the legislation that they “strongly support” AFRI, proposing what would be the program’s largest funding boost since its inception in 2008. This comes at a time when Midwestern farmers have had to cope with long delays in planting due to unprecedented flooding.
“Farmers have always had a difficult working relationship with the weather,” said Thomas Grumbly, President of the SoAR Foundation, “but this year’s delayed start to corn and soybean plantings highlights the need for innovations. In increasing AFRI’s budget, the House of Representatives provides the seeds for new science that can help farmers adapt to late planting and shortened growing seasons. We look forward to working with the Senate in making sure this commitment to science comes to fruition.”
The record floods have delayed the planting of corn and soy crops as farmers could not start until the standing water had drained, according to the USDA’s June 17 Crop Progress report. Too much land has only planted recently, bumping up against the limits of the growing season and threatening to reduce farm yields in the fall.
AFRI provides funding through a competitive process in which proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed. The program is currently authorized at $700 million but has never received this full amount during the annual appropriations process. With a limited annual budget, the program typically provides funding to less than a quarter of the science that the program’s expert panels deem worthy.
In addition to AFRI, the FY 2020 House USDA budget includes significant gains for other competitive research programs, such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Food Safety Outreach Program, Organic Transition Program, and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. SoAR has been working to advance a five-year vision for funding these programs as part of AgForward, a coalition of diverse agricultural research stakeholders that includes the American Society of Agronomy, American Soybean Association, Crop Science Society of America, IPM Voice, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Soil Science Society of America, and Union of Concerned Scientists.