On Our Plate: Investing in the Future of American Agriculture

Posted by on July 3rd, 2017 | 0 Comments »

As the U.S. prepares to celebrate Independence Day on July 4th, it is a good time to reflect on the role production agriculture has played in the nation’s history, and the benefits it has generated for the world.

While the practice of agriculture has evolved since the nation’s founding, the U.S. has long considered public investments in agriculture an essential public good.

A primary stimulus for productivity growth in the U.S. has been the collaborative system of public and private agricultural research and development (R&D) that has boosted innovation in crop and livestock production and in food and beverage processing.

While farmers innovate on their farms, experimenting with practices that can boost their productivity, individually they do not have the capacity to conduct longer-term research and development activities. Maintaining high productivity growth requires robust investment in agricultural R&D from both the public and private sectors.

Productivity in agriculture has resulted from a collaborative and sustained commitment by many sectors of U.S. society — including farmers, the U.S. federal and state governments, entrepreneurs and agribusiness companies, financial institutions, land-grant colleges and universities and extension agents — delivering science-based innovation and best practices to achieve abundant food production with low prices for consumers.

U.S. public agricultural R&D expenditures grew at least 2.6 percent annually in real terms in the years following World War II and this growth continued at a strong pace until leveling off in the early 1980s. In 2000, the rate of growth in public investment began to slacken, and it has declined 6 percent since then.

Private sources of funding for R&D in agriculture production and food manufacturing picked up pace after 2000. However, research by the private sector does not replace basic research by the public sector; rather, it focuses primarily on taking results from public sector research to the next level and creating marketable products for growers and consumers.

While private sector funding has increased in recent years, it is subject to greater volatility and may fluctuate during the more challenging stages in agricultural business cycles when it may be needed most.                  Source: 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®), page 29.

For more on the history of the U.S. agricultural research and extension system, as well as its influence on the productivity and sustainability of agriculture and food systems around the world, read these stories from the 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®).

The articles below provide additional information on U.S. public and private sector investments in agricultural research and extension.

This quiet agricultural ‘moonshot’ could change the future of food
Washington Post, June 24, 2017

Higher Ed leaders stress funding for agricultural research
Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network, June 24, 2017

Ag Secretary vows to help ‘right-size’ agricultural research budget
Delta Farm Press, June 14, 2017

Public/private partnerships poster child of success in ag research
Feedstuffs, June 15, 2017

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