Here at Breakthrough, we’ve spilled plenty of ink extolling the climate benefits of agricultural research and development — we recently sent a letter to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees advocating for a $40 billion investment in agricultural research and deferred maintenance — so we were pleased to see that the House Agriculture Committee’s portion of the budget reconciliation bill includes investments in agricultural research and infrastructure.
In total, the House Agriculture Committee’s bill segment, which was advanced by the full Committee last week, provides $7.75 billion — mostly to be distributed over five years — for agricultural research and research infrastructure, and unlike most previous investments, almost all of the funding is earmarked for climate-related research.
In addition to existing agencies and programs — the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), for example — the bill would also fund a new program, the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA), which was authorized in 2018 but has yet to receive funding.
Regardless of the precise breakdown of intended funding recipients and research purposes, the investment in agricultural research is expected to produce serious climate benefits. According to a recent working paper, $40 billion, spent over ten years, could prevent around 154 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per year by 2050. With a $7.75 billion investment, the US would be well on its way to achieving these climate benefits, but the reconciliation bill’s impact will depend in part on whether it leads to future investments.
For example, of the $6.34 billion designated for the NIFA, $3.65 billion would go towards the construction and repair of agricultural research facilities. These improvements would help to reduce delays and safeguard research quality, but additional funds would be necessary to address the $11.5 billion maintenance backlog that burdens NIFA research facilities at colleges and universities.
Combined with the FY22 funds in the House’s agricultural appropriations bill, the $250 million apportioned to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) through a budget reconciliation bill would amount to a nearly 27 percent increase in ARS research spending over FY21 levels. Still, a longer-term commitment to agricultural research would guarantee larger environmental and economic benefits.
Here’s a breakdown of how the $7.75 billion would be spent: