Thursday, April 17, 2008

Funding for Food and Agricultural Research

Congress is now in the final stages of writing a new Farm Bill (H.R. 2419), which should be a critical source of food and agricultural research funding through 2012. However, funding for land-grant universities conducting vital food science and technology research is in jeopardy.

Food and agricultural research, extension, and education are already chronically underfunded. The most recent proposed cut in funding for research is in excess of 75%. Federal funding for land-grant universities supports research on key problems of global, national, and regional importance in biological, environmental, physical, and social sciences relevant to agriculture, food, and the environment on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis.

We face a world with many new and emerging challenges in food and agriculture. A lack of funding will stifle scientific discovery and the spirit of innovation that will help us meet these challenges. If we are to advance the science of food and achieve our long-range vision of “a safe and abundant food supply for healthier people everywhere,” we must increase research funding, not decrease it. Food and agriculture research is an affordable program with priceless results.

This research is vital. Therefore, I urge you to help land-grant universities retain the modest level of funding for food and agricultural research, extension and education.

Please contact your Representative and Senators and ask them to maintain the overall funding level for food and agriculture research. You may find the contact information for your senators and representatives at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.

Here is the letter I sent:

Dear (Senator/Representative):

I am writing to express my strong concern with regard to the House-Senate conference on H.R. 2419, the Farm Bill.

I am distressed by indications that existing mandatory "Research Title" funding for land-grant research, extension, and teaching will be devastated.

We need for more research funding, not less. Additional university funding is necessary to combat the growing problem of obesity; to find new conservation techniques for preserving soil and water; to develop methods to provide agricultural production at less cost (to the farmer, the consumer, and the environment); to establish key links between food and human disease; to make our food supply safer; and to find ways to feed our citizens and people in the rest of the world.

The most recent conference documents indicate a reduction of $1.244 billion from the Research Title - a cut of over 75%! This would appear to be the largest percentage cut from the baseline of any title in the Farm Bill. Food and agricultural research and education is already chronically underfunded,

We recognize that difficult decisions lie before the conferees. But these massive cuts to the Research Title are inconsistent with the increase in overall Farm Bill spending and are disproportionate to that being contemplated in other titles of the bill (such as trade and crop insurance).

The challenges facing rural America and the nation's nutrition-challenged populations have never been greater - and neither have the opportunities to meet these challenges. We cannot address these and other problems without an enhanced investment in land-grant research, extension, and teaching.

The best opportunity to do that is in this Farm Bill.

Please do not let the outcome of this Farm Bill be the destruction of existing Research Title funding. If you cannot find ways to enhance funding, I urge you to at least protect the current land-grant funding baseline.

Sincerely,

Neal Fortin

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