Agricultural research is key to ensuring food security, economic stability, and sustainable development. It is the driving force behind advances in crop and livestock yields, pest and disease resistance, and climate resilience. It also underpins the development of new low-carbon practices. However, public funding for U.S. agricultural research has declined by about one-third in the past two decades, from $7.6 billion in 2002 to about $5.2 billion in 2019.
At the same time, China has stepped up its spending in this area to more than $10 billion a year, which has given their farmers an advantage in their competition with U.S. producers.
To shrink agriculture’s environmental footprint, produce more food using fewer resources, and maintain U.S. competitiveness, the United States needs to increase research funding now. If it does, agricultural research may also stimulate economic growth by creating jobs in globally competitive sectors such as biotechnology.
The Breakthrough Institute is therefore thrilled to support a new federal research initiative from Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Moran (R-KS)—the America Grows Act.
The America Grows Act is a robust commitment to fostering innovation and competitiveness in American agriculture. Modeled after the 21st Century Cures Act, the 2016 legislation that spurred additional funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), America Growswould provide a 5% inflation-adjusted annual increase in funding for the next 10 years for the following USDA research agencies: Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Economic Research Service (ERS), and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
The additional funding—similar to the ambitious doubling we have previously called for—would help reverse the dangerous trend of declining agricultural productivity and research funding. By raising productivity and spurring development of climate-smart technologies, such as lower-methane cattle and improved meat substitutes, it would also have large climate benefits. Analysis commissioned by the Breakthrough Institute projects that doubling public U.S. agricultural R&D spending would reduce global greenhouse emissions by 213 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year, equivalent to over one-third of current U.S. agricultural emissions. This large-scale investment in research would reduce emissions at a cost about $12 per ton carbon dioxide-equivalent, less than many other climate policies.