Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Senator John Thune, R-S.D., have introduced legislation to spur new ag research by leveraging private dollars to create charitable partnerships between universities and private entities. The Charitable Agricultural Research Act amends the tax code to allow for the creation of a new type of organization similar to the medical research organizations that have been around since the 1950s.
Stabenow believes research is critical in protecting the health and welfare of the nation's rural and farming communities as well as expanding the ag economy.
Unfortunately,Stabenow says ag research funding has become stagnant and fallen behind other federal agencies since the 1970s. And in the current tight budget environment, she notes ag research funding has been cut. Stabenow recognizes Congress needs to balance the budget and deal with the deficit, but says ag scientists have warned that failing to invest in ag research could spell disaster for the future of American food security and safety. That's why she's working with her colleagues to provide a new option for financing ag research.
"I think cutting ag research is very short sighted," Stabenow said. "From looking for an alternative to be able to support their efforts in this time of cutbacks, and to keep ag research going."
Stabenow says American agriculture outpaces and outperforms every other nation in the world because of decades of research. According to USDA's Economic Research Service, farm productivity has increased 158% since 1948, an increase that's attributed to research.
"Agricultural research and our ability to stay the leaders is very important," Stabenow said. "This new entity that we are creating, of a non-profit organization working with the university, is going to help us do that."
Additional cosponsors include Michael Bennet of Colorado, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Mississippi's Thad Cochran, Delaware's Chris Coons, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Oregon's Ron Wyden.
Companion legislation has been introduced by California's Devin Nunes in the House.