Chairwoman Stabenow, Senator Thune Introduce Bipartisan Agriculture Research Bill to Spur Innovation, Strengthen American Agriculture

Washington, DC – Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator John Thune (R-SD), a Member of the Committee, today introduced a bipartisan bill that will spur new agricultural research, leveraging private dollars to create charitable partnerships between universities and private entities to strengthen and improve American agriculture. The bill, the Charitable Agricultural Research Act, amends the tax code to allow for the creation of a new type of charitable, tax-exempt organization, agricultural research organizations, similar to medical research organizations which have been in existence since the 1950s.

“Research is critical in protecting the health and welfare of our rural and farming communities and expanding our agriculture economy,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “American agriculture outpaces and outperforms every other nation in the world because of decades of research – learning how to be more efficient, innovative and productive with fewer resources. This productivity has created an American agricultural sector that’s 16 million jobs strong. This is a ‘win-win’ effort that builds on decades of success and momentum by continuing to pursue new research – and doing so in a cost-effective way by engaging the private sector.”

“In the current tight budget environment, I am pleased to introduce this bill with Chairwoman Stabenow to provide a new option for financing agricultural research,” said Senator Thune. “Production agriculture’s current economic strength is a direct result of research that—among other things—has increased crop yields, made livestock healthier, and made food safer. Our bill will facilitate the transfer of much-needed private funding to agricultural research, helping to prevent innovation from stalling due to funding shortfalls.”

Over the last 60 years, agricultural research has expanded food production significantly. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, farm productivity has risen 158% since 1948; this increase is attributed to research, by implementing new changes in the efficiency of farming practices and the use of agricultural technology. Today, the United States produces $312 billion in agricultural products and exports $108 billion annually.

However, agricultural scientists warn that failing to invest in agricultural research could spell disaster for the future of American food security and safety. Agricultural research funding has become stagnant and has fallen far behind other federal agencies since the 1970s. The Charitable Agricultural Research Act seeks to address these challenges by creating agricultural research organizations (AROs) that would work in conjunction with agricultural and land-grant colleges and universities to conduct research in the field of agriculture. To accomplish this, a new section allowing for donations to agricultural research would be added immediately below the portion of the current tax code that provides for charitable contributions to medical research organizations.

The establishment of AROs will complement existing public and private research and also create the opportunity for previously under-funded projects to be fully funded, such as projects addressing specialty crops or specific diseases.

“The need for increased research now that will result in improvements in the future is at a critical level. Current research at the nation’s land grant universities, funded by public investment, has been historically flat [roughly 1.85%] and the future for an increase is not bright. This proposed action will create new opportunities for public-private collaborations and partnerships that will dramatically increase the potential for research-driven advancements,” said Douglas Buhler, Interim Dean of Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“My thanks and appreciation goes to Senator Thune for his leadership on this important matter,” said Dr. Kevin Kephart, Vice President for Research at South Dakota State University. “The demands on American agriculture continue to increase and Americans are looking to the nation’s farmers and agricultural industries for solutions to concerns for food production, energy security, and mitigation of environmental problems. The Charitable Agricultural Research Act will bring critically-needed funding as well as new collaborations for public and private sector scientists.”

Additional cosponsors include:

Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Chris Coons (D-DE)

James Inhofe (R-OK)

Ron Wyden (D-OR)

A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

 

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