Ag groups ask Lucas, Peterson to include FFAR in House Farm Bill

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, June 6, 2012- In a letter to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) this week, several agriculture industry organizations urged 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.

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The letter is the counterpart to the one previously sent to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders. A version of the FFAR provision is included in the Senate Agriculture Committee's recently-approved Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012.

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 (CCC) 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. 

The National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research (C-FAR) maintained that the nation has a serious food and agricultural REE deficit, just as the nation has a budget deficit.”

“This food and agricultural science funding deficit is serious, long running and unsustainable,” stated National C-FAR. “Failure to address this research deficit will have real negative consequences, not just to the agriculture and food system but to the entire nation and U.S. economy.”

The group of more than 70 organizations urged the House Agriculture Committee leaders to include the provision in the 2012 Farm Bill, noting that “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. 

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