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Government Relations & Washington Update

April 2023

AAEA Joins Coalition Partners Advocating for Research Infrastructure
AAEA recently signed a letter to Congress led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) requesting funding in the farm bill to support agricultural research infrastructure.  The letter calls on Congress to provide $5 billion in mandatory funding over five years through the Research Facilities Act within Title VII of the next Farm Bill. This investment would advance the critical work being done at public colleges of agriculture, veterinarian, forestry, and natural resources across the country.  Updated facilities would support American jobs, enable the recruitment of diverse workforce talent, address agricultural production challenges, and ensure U.S. leadership in food and agricultural innovation.

A 2021 report by Gordian assessed the state of facilities at U.S. colleges and schools of agriculture and reported that 70 percent of these buildings are at the end of their useful life. The report estimated the cost to upgrade deferred maintenance at $11.5 billion, and the cost to replace the dilapidated facilities at $38.1 billion. It further stated that strategic federal investment in these facilities at 1862, 1890, 1994, insular land-grant and non-land-grant schools of agriculture would create 200,000 new jobs nationwide. This investment would also contribute to the critical need for the U.S. to recruit and graduate 60,000 new U.S. students with agricultural expertise every year. An investment of $5 billion in agricultural research infrastructure at colleges of agriculture would be a significant step in an overall strategy to ensure that the U.S. remains globally competitive.

House Agriculture Subcommittee Holds Research Hearing
On March 23rd, the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology held a hearing entitled: “A Review of Title VII: USDA Implementation of Research Programs.”  The hearing is part of a series of hearings that the House and Senate are holding as they prepare for the next farm bill.  Dr. Chavonda Jacobs Young, USDA Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics, was the sole witness at the hearing.  Her testimony highlighted the impact of publicly funded research and cited ERS research that found $20 in benefits for every $1 in federal investment.  Despite the gains from investments in research, federal funding has declined by a third over the last 20 years.  This decline in support means that the United States is falling behind countries such as China in agricultural research investments.  Reversing the trend in research funding will be critical to address pressing research priorities and support future workforce needs.  In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Jim Baird (R-IN) also discussed the importance of agricultural research and cited data showing that the U.S. investment has been declining.

NIFA Releases AGARDA Implementation Strategy
In late March, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released the long-awaited implementation strategy for the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AGARDA). AGARDA was authorized in the 2018 farm bill with the purpose of developing technologies, research tools, and products through advanced research on long-term and high-risk challenges for food and agriculture to ensure that the United States maintains its position as leader in global agricultural Research and Development (R&D). AGARDA is based on the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model which has been used effectively across government to catalyze the development of technologies that maintain and advance the capabilities of U.S. military, energy, and health industries. The strategy document outlines the imperative for a new approach to deliver disruptive breakthrough discoveries for agriculture and details a strategic framework for how the program will be executed when appropriated funding is received at the authorized level plus contingencies for various other funding levels. AGARDA’s mission is to deliver high-impact transformative scientific solutions to high priority agricultural challenges.

AGARDA Goals include:

  • Combating Climate Change to Support America’s Working Lands, Natural Resources and Communities
  • Expanding Opportunities for Economic Development and Improving Rural Communities
  • Building an Equitable and Competitive Marketplace for All Producers
  • Providing Americans with Safe, Nutritious Food

Features of AGARDA:

  • Fund high-risk, high-return R&D only.
  • Hire and empower a cadre of highly motivated, short term, independent thinking program directors as main workforce.
  • Create a flat organization.
  • Focus on technology transfer and market translation by engaging with customers and partners throughout the process.
  • Seek additional legislative authorities to empower AGARDA with hiring and purchasing powers to facilitate speed and invention.