With the farm bill on the Senate floor for discussion, groups are weighing in with their recommendations on both the Senate and House bills. In a letter to House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin this week, the American Soybean Association joined other agriculture in urging the House Agriculture Committee to include a provision establishing a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) in its version of the upcoming farm bill. ASA and its partner groups are urging the House Agriculture Committee to take action comparable to the FFAR provision included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s recently-approved Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012.
“An FFAR would complement and add to USDA’s portfolio of intramural and extramural research programs that help solve current and future challenges facing agriculture, develop new opportunities for American agriculture, and bring innovative technology from laboratory to marketplace,” wrote the more than 70 groups in the letter. “With an ever expanding global population and increasing demands for food and other agricultural products, increased investments in food and agricultural research are essential to maintaining our nation’s food, economic and national security.”
“Agricultural research holds innumerable benefits for the soybean industry, and our farmers depend on a robust research framework to continue the stream of innovative products and processes that enable the industry to be as productive as it can be,” said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb.
The groups noted that research is currently only a small portion of USDA’s budget, and that an FFAR would generate outside funding sources through the development of public-private partnerships. “Despite the importance of such research, current funding for food and agricultural research is less than 2.5 percent of USDA’s budget,” wrote the groups. “Establishing an FFAR will generate new sources of funding for food and agricultural research. It will provide a structure for new public/private partnerships and investments that will further USDA’s research mission.”
As written in the Senate version of the farm bill, the FFAR would supplement the research efforts of USDA by accepting tax-deductible donations to fund agricultural research. Through the FFAR, those donations would be matched by $100 million in Commodity Credit Corporation funds, which would then be used to support grants for collaborative public/private partnerships with scientists and entities including USDA, academia, non-profits, and the private sector.