Economic Recovery for Rural Communities and Agricultural Sustainability

Funding Maintenance and Facility Upgrades for Agricultural Research Infrastructure

Rural areas in the United States are particularly vulnerable to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, in light of the economic uncertainty that American farmers have faced in recent years. As a result of the pandemic, farmers face low prices, contracting export markets, and labor shortages, placing rural and semi-rural communities in dire straits.

Read the full report here.

As part of ongoing efforts to support economic recovery, the US federal government has an opportunity to fund infrastructure projects that can both supply much-needed jobs in rural areas and help improve the environmental sustainability of American agriculture. One such opportunity is funding the maintenance backlog at the federal Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and at public and land-grant universities’ (LGUs) agricultural facilities.

The ARS is the US Department of Agriculture’s in-house scientific research agency. The ARS currently operates under a $1.6 billion budget, provided by federal appropriations, which includes research, salaries, and facility and equipment management. Land-grant universities is a designation given to most major public universities and tribal colleges, as well as a few private universities. These institutions receive federal funding and are often leaders in agricultural sciences, education, and innovation.

Read the full report here.


  • Rural areas are especially vulnerable to the COVID-19-induced economic crisis, and will likely have the hardest time bouncing back. By investing in agriculture research infrastructure, the federal government has an opportunity to immediately relieve economic hardship and stimulate rural and semi-rural economies.
  • The maintenance backlog for the USDA Agricultural Research Service facilities and agricultural schools at land-grant universities currently sits at $9.4 billion. These centers of agricultural innovation are largely responsible for the world-leading productivity and efficiency of US agriculture, but they now risk facility failures, compromised research, poor education capability, and limited possibility for growth.
  • Allocating $9.4 billion to fully fund the maintenance backlog for both the ARS and for land-grant universities’ agricultural schools would create over 140,000 jobs, bolster the US agricultural innovation system, and reduce the environmental and climate impacts of agriculture both domestically and globally.