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The bipartisan America Grows Act could help reassert US leadership in ag research

If passed, the bipartisan America Grows Act of 2021 would significantly increase US public investment in agricultural research and development, says the Farm Journal Foundation.

by Megan Howell
28 April 2021, at 7:30am

The bill, introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), would increase funding for agricultural research by 5% annually on an inflation-adjusted basis at four agencies at the US Department of Agriculture for the next 10 years. The bill is modeled after the successful 21st Century Cures Act, which passed in 2016 and spurred additional funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

More support for agricultural research is badly needed – US public funding has declined in real dollars since 2003, while investments in other forms of domestic research have risen dramatically. The US has fallen behind major competitors China and Brazil in agricultural research funding, but the America Grows Act would help reverse this trend and reassert American leadership on the global stage.

“The introduction of the America Grows Act could not have come at a better time,” said Tricia Beal, CEO of Farm Journal Foundation. “Our nation’s farmers and producers face unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, more frequent extreme weather events, and rising global demand for food. Increasing investment in agricultural research is absolutely critical for addressing production, nutrition, food security, and supply chain challenges across the food and farming sector.”

The America Grows Act would increase funding for four agencies at the USDA: Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Economic Research Service (ERS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Agricultural research has one of the highest returns of any public investment, estimated at $17 to every $1 spent, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Maintaining US competitiveness is vitally important to ensuring abundant, affordable food supplies, as well as supporting the economy. Food and agriculture account for nearly $3 trillion of US GDP, 1 in 6 jobs, and contribute more than $155 trillion in export value to the nation’s trade balance.

“Increasing support for agricultural research is crucial for both our economic and national security,” said David Hong, senior vice president for government affairs at Farm Journal Foundation. “The America Grows Act would enable us to invest in solutions to pest, disease, and severe weather challenges that threaten our entire food system, and ensure safe, affordable food supplies for all.”

A full version of the bill is available here.