Durbin Introduces Bill To Boost Agricultural Research Funding

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today introduced new legislation that would authorize a five percent annual funding increase over the next five years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  With most domestic agriculture research on the decline, the America Grows Act would restore the United States’ commitment to publically-funded agriculture research at USDA.  Durbin announced the bill while visiting the Peoria County Farm Bureau last month.

“The America Grows Act would ensure USDA has robust federal funding to make breakthroughs and foster innovation that keeps America competitive in the global marketplace,” Durbin said. “If we want to compete with China when it comes to cutting-edge agricultural research, we must increase federal research funding in a bold and effective way.”

U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) plans to introduce a companion bill in the House.

“We need to make big, bold investments in agricultural research to empower our farmers to compete across the world,” said Bustos, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “Every dollar invested in agricultural research returns more than 20 dollars to our economy, and critical research is needed to arm farmers with innovative tools to fight the growing climate crisis. That’s why my Rural Green Partnership also calls for increased research funding. Illinois has a proud tradition of agricultural research – especially at the Peoria Ag Lab – and I’m proud to join Senator Durbin on this critical legislation.”

Today, most domestic agriculture research is funded by large private-sector corporations. Moreover, among high-income countries, the U.S. share has declined from 35 percent in 1960 to less than 25 percent by 2013.  By comparison, in the past 30 years, Chinese investments in agriculture research has risen eight-fold.

The America Grows Act authorizes a five percent annual funding increase over the next five years for research activities at the USDA, specifically at the:

  • Agriculture Research Service (ARS) – USDA’s chief in-house scientific research agency with 90+ locations nationwide and overseas.
  • National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) – which funds external research through a nationwide network of land-grant colleges and universities, agricultural experiment stations, schools of forestry, schools of veterinary medicine, and cooperative extension experts.
  • National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) – which collects and reports statistics on U.S. agriculture, such as the farm census, crop forecasts, and price estimates.
  • Economic Research Service (ERS) – which provides economic and policy analysis on farming, ranching, food, conservation practices, farm management, commodity markets and rural economic development. 

The America Grows Act is supported by more than 80 organizations. The list of organizations can be found here.

Earlier this year, Durbin, along with U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL-11) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), introduced bicameral legislation to restore the United States’ commitment to breakthrough scientific and biomedical research.  The American Cures Act and the American Innovation Act would create mandatory funds to provide steady, predictable funding for breakthrough research at America’s top research agencies, allowing the United States to remain a leader in development and discovery for decades to come.

The American Cures Act—of which Representative Underwood is the lead House sponsor—would provide annual budget increases of five percent plus inflation at America’s top four biomedical research agencies: the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense Health Program, and the Veterans Medical and Prosthetics Research Program.

The American Innovation Act—of which Representative Foster is the lead House sponsor—would provide annual budget increases of five percent for cutting edge research at five important federal research agencies: The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, the Department of Defense Science and Technology Programs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Scientific and Technical Research, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Science Directorate.  This steady, long-term investment would allow the agencies to plan and manage strategic growth while maximizing efficiencies.