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New crop varieties from agricultural research and plant breeding have increased yields for farmers in the U.S. and worldwide.

One federal investment that has paid off

Of the almost $21 billion that would be whacked from agriculture funding in the federal budget proposed by President Trump, a sizable chunk would be cuts to agricultural research programs at the nation’s 112 Land Grant universities and colleges.

Among the areas targeted for significant cuts in the proposed federal budget submitted by the Trump administration is agriculture — no particular surprise; a predominantly urban Congress has increasingly looked to agriculture for cuts to help fund other programs.

Of the almost $21 billion that would be whacked from agriculture funding in President Trump’s proposed federal budget, a sizable chunk would be cuts to agricultural research programs at the nation’s 112 Land Grant universities and colleges through the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Most people haven’t a clue that NIFA even exists; even fewer are remotely aware of the federal role in supporting programs that have made U.S. agriculture the envy of the world. Over the years, NIFA has been an important source of funding for research projects that have brought a myriad of benefits to America’s farmers through increased efficiency and productivity.

It’s eye-opening to go to the NIFA website (http://bit.ly/2nX0EOC) and scroll over the U.S. map and see the allocations to congressional districts. In the Mid-South states in fiscal 2015, Mississippi’s third district got $15.56 million, all but $7,500 of that to the Mississippi State University System; another $10.48 million went to the Delta’s second district, mostly to Mississippi State University and Alcorn State University; while the first district got a bit over $500,000. Louisiana’s sixth congressional district got a tad over $17 million, the second district $5.4 million, and other districts a few hundred thousand. Arkansas’ third district got $9.9 million, second district $8.78 million, fourth district $6.3 million, and first district, $1.5 million. Tennessee’s second district got a bit over $28 million, the fifth district a bit over $11 million, and small amounts to the fourth, seventh, and ninth districts. Missouri’s fourth district got $22.7 million, third district $9.68 million, and small amounts to the sixth and seventh districts.

Mario Tama/Getty ImagesResearch lab

Federal funding supports a broad base of agricultural research programs at the nation's Land Grant universities and colleges.

A recent analysis shows NIFA funding supporting a broad base of research and development programs to enhance the U.S. economy and society through projects in agricultural production, food safety, agribusiness, bioenergy research, and other programs. One in six patents in agriculture science and related disciplines was influenced by Land Grant university research. Patents focused on next generation applications in biotechnology, life sciences, and physical sciences. Top patent categories were new plant varieties and cultivars, genetic engineering, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals, enzymes, food production and additives, and animal husbandry/management.

The Cooperative Extension System, based at Land Grant universities, provides a high volume of knowledge, training, and informal education to agricultural professionals and local communities. Extension averages 58.5 million direct contacts with clients per year.

After the private sector, the federal government is the second highest funder of agricultural and related research, by a wide margin, and is the primary funder of early stage, exploratory research and applied agricultural research on specialty crops, livestock, and agricultural commodities specific to local geographies and production environments.

 

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