US Senator John Boozman met today with agricultural industry leaders at an Arkansas farm event to discuss how public support for agricultural research can help protect farm livelihoods and strengthen US agriculture’s global leadership position.
Farmers today are under increasing pressure to meet growing global demand for food, in the midst of unpredictable weather and rising costs for inputs including fertilizer and fuel. This event, held at Pendergrass Cattle Co. in Charleston, showcased how cutting-edge agricultural research conducted in the US can help increase crop yields and livestock performance, improve farm efficiencies and lower input costs, while benefitting the entire food supply chain.
Attendees of the event included Ben Noble, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Riceland Foods; Dr. Ken Opengart, vice president of animal welfare and international sustainability at Tyson Foods; Dr. Tim Kurt, scientific program director at the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR); Matt King, senior vice president of administration and advocacy at the Arkansas Farm Bureau; John Paul Pendergrass, co-owner of Pendergrass Cattle Co. and a Farm Journal Foundation Farmer Ambassador; and David Hong, senior vice president for government affairs at Farm Journal Foundation.
Agricultural research has one of the highest returns of any public investment, generating an estimated $17 for every $1 from taxpayers, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. However public spending on agricultural research has declined in real dollars since 2003, even as investments in other forms of domestic research increased.
The US has fallen behind major competitors China and Brazil in agricultural research funding, putting our agricultural trade balance at risk, according to a recent report commissioned by Farm Journal Foundation and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Importantly, agricultural research conducted in the US can support farmers at home and abroad and help ensure global food security as small-scale farmers in developing countries can ultimately benefit from improved technology. More support for agricultural research is needed to ensure safe and affordable food supplies, and to maintain US agriculture’s global leadership position.
“Investing in scientific innovation today can mitigate future challenges like climate change, costly diseases in livestock and disruptions in the food supply chain,” said FFAR Scientific Program Director Dr. Tim Kurt. “By forming strategic partnerships with the private sector, organizations like FFAR can fund audacious scientific research benefits farmers, consumers and the environment.”
While private sector research investments have had a significant impact, particularly on yields for large commodity crops such as corn and soybeans, the public sector has an important role to play. Companies tend to direct fewer research dollars toward crop markets with smaller planted acres nationally, such as rice and grain sorghum that are important to Arkansas farmers, as well as underexplored areas of animal health, environmental and food safety research. Public investment and public-private partnerships are critical and can support early stage research to pave the way for significant long-term innovations.
“Research is vitally important to the long-term viability of the US rice industry,” said Riceland Foods’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ben Noble. “Our farmers are constantly facing new production challenges and need a robust research effort to stay ahead of the game.”
Collaboration between the public and private sectors can create a high return on public investment, as demonstrated by FFAR, the only public-private partnership model for US agricultural research. FFAR matches every $1 in federal funding with at least $1 from a non-federal source – bringing in millions of research dollars from the private sector. Since its creation in the 2014 Farm Bill, FFAR has surpassed its matching requirement and is on pace to generate $1 billion in total research spending from the $385 million invested by Congress in the last two farm bills.
“Animal welfare research and innovation are critical areas to ensuring continuous improvement for positive welfare outcomes not only here in Arkansas, but across our global supply chain,” said Dr. Ken Opengart vice president of animal welfare and international sustainability at Tyson Foods. “Public-private collaboration, like that between FFAR and Tyson Foods, will be a key part in the development and implementation of innovation and technology that will not only positively impact the present day industry but for generations to come.”
Agriculture is Arkansas’s biggest industry, accounting for one out of every six jobs, according to the University of Arkansas. Investing in agricultural research today is crucial as it can take years to develop new discoveries until they’re ready for market. Continuing to innovate will ensure the agricultural sector remains viable, which is important for Arkansas and the US.
“Innovation is critical for today’s farmers to survive and thrive, as we face increasing pressure from volatile weather, high operating costs and rising global demand for food,” said John Paul Pendergrass, co-owner of Pendergrass Cattle Co. and a Farmer Ambassador at Farm Journal Foundation. “Public support for agricultural research is needed to enable farmers at home to stay on top of these challenges, and to ensure small-scale farmers abroad have the tools they need to feed a growing, hungry world.”
Today’s event was organized by Farm Journal Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving global food security by sustaining modern agriculture’s leadership role and ability to meet the vital needs of a growing population.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking