U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) Chairwoman of the Committee, today introduced legislation to establish a foundation to solicit private donations to enhance research for the most pressing challenge facing U.S. agriculture -- meeting exploding global demand.
"Agriculture research must remain a priority for our nation, especially given the role food plays in national security and stability," Roberts said. "Establishing this foundation is an innovative way to generate new sources of funding for agricultural research by leveraging our public investment in agricultural research with private donations during a time of federal budgetary constraints. This foundation model has a proven track record of success and will complement and maximize the use of tax dollars in agricultural research while establishing a consistent and growing resource for researchers that will benefit the agriculture industry as a whole."
"American agriculture outperforms every other country in the world because decades of research have shown us how to be more efficient and innovative," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "Because of research, agriculture is a bright spot in our economy and supports more than 16 million American jobs. Creating this foundation will leverage private capital to spur new research ventures, creating jobs and growing the economy."
U.S. producers face an enormous challenge of having to double production in order to feed a global population expected to reach 9 billion in the coming decades.
Significant fiscal pressures to USDA's research budget will challenge American producers' ability to increase farm productivity and meet the challenges of feeding a growing world.
The bill, The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), authorizes the establishment of a 501(c) 3, a non-profit organization, and includes provisions outlining the duties and structure of the foundation, including an appointed Board of Directors representing the diverse sectors of agriculture. It also requires annual financial audits and good governance procedures for increased accountability and transparency. This model serves as a useful tool to foster new public-private partnerships among the agricultural research community, including USDA research agencies, academia, private corporations, and non-profit organizations.
There are precedents for congressionally mandated foundations across the federal government, including entities devoted to medical research, public health and safety and natural resource conservation. Some examples include: Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the National Forest Foundation.
The bill has broad support among the agriculture community and key agriculture research leaders.
"I look forward to the committee's debate on the farm bill and the research title in particular," Roberts said. "This legislation should be a part of those discussions."
"The potential to create this foundation as part of the new farm bill is yet one more reason to get the farm bill completed as soon as possible," Chairwoman Stabenow said.
Senators Roberts and Stabenow are outspoken advocate for the continued investment in agricultural research and development.