RELEASE: Breakthrough Institute Urges House and Senate Agriculture Committees to Boost Ag R&D Funding in Infrastructure Bill with $40B Investment to Fight Climate Change

Letter urges House and Senate Ag Leadership to prioritize ag research funding to fight climate, reduce emissions with a renewed and sustained federal commitment to agricultural research

Berkeley, Calif. — This week, the Breakthrough Institute sent a letter to House Agriculture Committee Chair David Scott, D-Ga., and Ranking Member Glenn Thompson, R-Penn., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark., to increase agriculture research spending by $40 billion to fight climate change and reduce agriculture-related emissions as part of the infrastructure package now being considered.

The letter requests, “Achieving President Biden’s climate goals will require a renewed and sustained federal commitment to agricultural research, and we urge Congress to seize the unique opportunity presented by the infrastructure package by (1) investing at least $40 billion to support agricultural research, address deferred maintenance, and expand research capacity and (2) directing USDA to develop a research infrastructure revitalization plan that gives preference to facilities conducting high priority research.”

“The link between agriculture research and environmental benefits is well established,” the letter continues. “According to [our] analysis, increasing U.S. agricultural research spending by nearly $40 billion over a decade could prevent nearly 58 million acres of cropland conversion and around 154 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent of emissions per year globally by 2050. That’s equivalent to nearly 25 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions from the US agricultural sector.”

Earlier this year, the Breakthrough Institute released a working paper authored by Director of Food Agriculture Daniel Blaustein-Rejto and Purdue University Professor Uris Baldos quantifying the considerable environmental and food security benefits of publicly-funded agricultural R&D in the US.

“Funding research and development is one of the simplest and most effective steps we can take to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector,” Daniel Blaustein-Rejto said. “Not only does increasing agricultural R&D make climate sense, but economic sense as well. We need to continue innovating and developing new technologies that will, in turn, help us grow food more efficiently and sustainably while also minimizing climate impacts.”

Another report released earlier this year by the Breakthrough Institute titled “Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud” highlighted how key impacts investments in American agriculture would also create jobs, including:

  • $300 million for ongoing publicly funded R&D to cover COVID-related costs: 3,600+ jobs
  • $11.5 billion to cover the agricultural R&D facility maintenance backlog: 178,100+ jobs
  • $190 million for new interagency research initiatives: 3,700+ jobs
  • $400 million for mission-driven research at AGARDA: 4,900 jobs
  • $74 million to incentivize private sector R&D through FFAR and SBIR: 650+ jobs
  • $13.3 million for Federal loan guarantees to emerging agricultural industries: 2,200+ jobs

The letter to House and Senate Agriculture Committee Leadership highlights the common sense approach an investment of this magnitude would have, concluding, “Agricultural research and development generates environmental benefits in the U.S. and abroad — increased spending would cut direct agricultural emissions, boost exports of environmentally efficient agricultural goods, and facilitate the spread of climate-friendly innovations. Federal investment will be crucial for realizing these advantages since environmentally and socially beneficial research, which is often non-competitive or has a long payback period, less frequently attracts private investment.”

Sean Trambley, Director of Communications