The BAA Communications and Marketing Committee launched the “Redefining American Agriculture for the 21st Century” video in its continued effort to market the land-grant system and boost support for increased federal support. The video directs viewers to AgAction.org, which is a portal that makes it easy for supporters to write to their Members of Congress to urge support for APLU’s request of a $200 million increase in the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s capacity programs and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
- View the video here: Redefining American Agriculture for the 21st Century
- Promote the video on Twitter and Facebook
- Go to AgAction.org and take 2 minutes to simply fill in your email and zip code, and press send.
The Rebuild Rural Coalition released a one-pager supporting the infrastructure needs at land-grant institutions. The coalition is asking for $10 billion dedicated to agricultural research facilities: $1 billion per year over the next 10 years.
Senate Ag Committee reviews research programs
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee held a hearing on June 15 to review agricultural research programs as part of their preparations for the 2018 Farm Bill. Witnesses included:
• Dr. Ann Bartuska – Acting Deputy Under Secretary, Research, Education & Economics, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
• Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy – Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
• Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young – Administrator, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
• Dr. Sally Rockey – Executive Director, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, Washington, DC
• Dr. John Floros – Dean and Director, College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
• Mr. Gary McMurray – Division Chief, Food Processing Technology Division, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta, GA
• Dr. Kerry Hartman – Academic Dean and Sciences Chair, Environmental Sciences, Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, New Town, ND
• Mr. Steve Wellman – Farmer, Wellman Farms Inc., Syracuse, NE
The land-grant system received many positive mentions in the hearing. In his opening statement, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said, “Because of the early investments U.S. leaders made in agriculture research and extension efforts, our producers are better equipped to manage through droughts, disease, floods, fires, and a great deal more that mother nature throws at them.” Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) expressed concern that other countries were beginning to outpace the U.S. in research funding, “Over the past decade, we have seen China, India, and Brazil significantly increase their investment in Ag research. China now has a 2-to-1 advantage over the U.S. in critical public investments… If we allow our country to slip behind in agricultural research, our farmers could lose their global competitiveness.”
In the question and answer portion of the hearing, Chairman Roberts asked specifically about wheat research currently being conducted using funding from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). He also asked the representative from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) how they plan to generate new funding. Dr. Rockey answered saying the model defined in the farm bill only works when the foundation has a continued financial investment from Congress in order to leverage non-federal dollars.
Answering a question about AFRI resources asked by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Dr. Ramaswamy said over the last three years, AFRI has received over 3000 applications for funding. Of those, panels have recommended over 1200 projects to be funded, but resources were only available to fund 480 of those projects. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) expressed support for NIFA’s collaboration with other federal agencies. Dr. Ramaswamy said that for every dollar NIFA invests, it leverages $5 to $10 from those other agencies. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) shared a personal anecdote about being helped by an agriculture extension agent regarding fruit tree pruning, and continued saying the extension services provided by the land-grant system are important. Dr. Ramaswamy said extension is a model that the rest of the world wants to emulate and that the systems’ ability to translate knowledge and deliver that knowledge is the reason for the successful U.S. agricultural enterprise. He continued saying that U.S. budgets at all levels have declined, causing extension’s footprint nationwide to decrease by 30%. Therefore, rather than the system having one office in every county, some states now have one office serving multiple counties, which causes a challenge in delivering information. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee expressed support for increased funding for agricultural research and asked how the system is able to leverage private and other public funding. Dr. Ramaswamy highlighted the matching requirements within the capacity and competitive programs at NIFA.
In the second panel, Ranking Member Stabenow and Senator Hoeven asked about NIFA’s partnerships with tribal colleges. Chairman Roberts asked the representative from Georgia Tech about the matching requirements that make it difficult for institutions like his to receive USDA research grants. Dr. McMurray said his institution does not receive discretionary funding from the state, so there is not a pot of money they can readily use to be able to provide the matching requirement to leverage federal dollars.
Chairman Roberts closed the hearing by saying research is an integral tool that can help solve the larger macroeconomic problems agriculture faces.
THE CORNERSTONE TEAM