It has been 150 years since Congress passed the Morrill Act and established the Land Grant University system. In subsequent years, the system was expanded with the passage of the Hatch Act and the Smith-Lever Act to provide broader access to higher education, apply agricultural research findings on and off campus and establish the Extension system.
In testimony at an Aug. 25 field hearing by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in Wichita on the 2012 Farm Bill.
Kansas State University president Kirk Shulz said funding to land grant universities has paid off in the creation of a safe, abundant food supply while encouraging the sustainable use of natural resources and promoting healthy communities.
Research, Shultz, said is less about spending and more about investing in the same safe and ample supply of food in the future.
While acknowledging that "earmark" has become a derogatory term in the current political environment, Shultz reminded Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) that earmark funding for K-State research projects have yielded dividends many times greater than the initial investment.
Among the examples he cited were the Wheat Genetics and Genomics Resource Center, funded in 1984. The center maintains a massive collection of wild wheat and goat-grass strains obtained from diverse geographic regions.
"Through the years, the genetic tools derived from this collection have been deployed around the world and have contributed significantly to the development of high-value wheat germplasm," Shultz testified. "This germplasm has been used by numerous wheat breeding programs at land grant universities, including K-State. Genes have been incorporated into wheat varieties with durable resistance against diseases and insect pests, including rust diseases"
Appropriations have also contributed to food safety work at K-State and laid the groundwork for building the level 3 Biosecurity Research Institute on campus.
Other projects have include water use efficiency studies and the Great Plains Sorghum Improvement and Utilization Center, which facilitated the development of improved lines used in breeding programs in Kansas and other parts of the U.S. as well as Africa, Australia and Asia.
Steve Baccus, president of Kansas Farm Bureau, pointed out to the senators that a growing world population will require 70 to 100% more food than is currently being produced.
"Federal programs must encourage both public and private investment in efforts that will produce new information to improve soil, environmental and socioeconomic conditions," Baccus testified.
Karl Esping, chairman of the Kansas Sunflower Commission said work done by the USDA Agricultural Research Service has helped sunflower growers significantly increase yield and production with improved genetics and pest resistance.
Ken Grecian, president of the Kansas Livestock Association, said a robust research title is essential to helping the beef industry control diseases such as bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis and to protecting the U.S. livestock industry from foreign animal diseases.
Tomorrow: Trade, Rural Development and Regulations also topics at field hearing.