Ag Research was the Farm Bill title before the Senate Ag Committee this week, as USDA and other witnesses testified on the need to fund cutting-edge Ag research, the power behind modern, high-tech agriculture.  USDA research chief Chavonda Jacobs-Young told lawmakers research in need of funding has largely been ignored over the past couple of Farm Bills.


“Federal investments in agricultural research have declined by a third in the past two decades, falling far behind our international partners. Once the world’s leader, the United States now trails far behind other major nations in public agricultural research investments.”


And why is that?  Jacobs-Young said the number of employees is quite a bit lower, compared to universities or the National Science Foundation.  But, she continued, producing food takes science—a lot of science.


"When you talk to most Americans, they have no idea how high-tech agriculture is. And those things are only possible if you have broadband access, if you have smart young people, young people who understand biology and computer systems and informatics, who can come in and help us build AI systems and machine learning. And then we need traditional breeders, who can breed plants that can be mechanically harvested.”


Jacobs-Young said existing ARS and NIFA programs are helping, but today’s ag needs more bite-size, usable technology, more ways to reduce huge input costs, more veterinarians, and healthier foods to reduce exploding health care costs.  And all of it will take more money.


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