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(August 5, 2021)—As unusually dry conditions continue and drought grips 31 states, urgent action is
required for both immediate
and long-term solutions to the many challenges facing our farmers, ranchers and
food producers. This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $3.6 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
(USDA) research and development (R&D) programs to develop the tools needed
for resilience, both now and in the coming decades. If enacted, the funding
increase would be $292 million above the FY 2021 enacted level for USDA’s
Research, Education, Economics, and Extension programs. The Congress now needs
to work together to finalize FY 2022 funding levels.
“With the federal share of overall R&D spending as a percentage of GDP now at its lowest point since the 1950s, USDA’s R&D programs need a robust infusion of funding,” said Margaret Zeigler, interim president of the SoAR Foundation. “Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tammy Baldwin and Ranking Member John Hoeven understand the importance of agricultural research for our farmers, ranchers, producers, and foresters. We applaud their work to fund much needed USDA programs for the heartbeat of rural America as they adapt to the drastic changes in climate. SoAR will continue to work with our partners to ensure that USDA R&D programs, including the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are funded at the highest levels possible.”
As the USDA’s flagship competitive grants program for agricultural research within the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), AFRI uses a rigorous peer-reviewed process to recommend the best research for funding. The program has been authorized by the past three Farm Bills at $700 million, but is currently funded at $435 million annually. Depending on the fiscal year, as much as three-quarters of AFRI proposals that are deemed worthy by expert review panels go unfunded because not enough funds are available.
The lack of federally funded agricultural research investments has allowed competitors such as China and Brazil—which have made significant investments in the agricultural sciences—to overtake American farmers in key commodities markets. Increased funding of USDA’s R&D agencies and programs—Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and NIFA (which administers the AFRI program)—will boost farm productivity, support resilience in a changing climate, and improve prospects in international markets.
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About the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation
The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation leads a non-partisan coalition working to educate stakeholders about the importance of agricultural research. For the past seven years, SoAR has supported increased investments to encourage top scientists to create agricultural solutions that improve public health and food security and enhance economic competitiveness. For more information, please visit www.supportagresearch.org.