Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator John Thune (R-SD), a Member of the Committee, yesterday introduced a bipartisan bill with Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) that will help spur new agricultural research by leveraging private dollars to create charitable partnerships between universities and private entities. The bill, the Charitable Agricultural Research Act, amends the tax code to allow for the creation of new charitable, tax-exempt agricultural research organizations, which are similar to medical research organizations that have been successfully supporting innovation in medical sciences since the 1950s.
"Innovation is critical in protecting the health and welfare of our rural communities and expanding our agriculture economy," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "American agriculture outpaces and outperforms every other nation in the world because of decades of research that has led us to be more efficient with fewer resources. This productivity has created an American agricultural sector that's 16 million jobs strong. This is a "win-win' effort that builds on decades of success and momentum by continuing to pursue new research, and doing so in a cost-effective way by engaging the private sector."
"In the current tight budget environment Congress needs to enact innovative legislation, such as this bill, which will encourage private donors to help meet shortfalls in agriculture research funding," Sen. Thune said. "I am pleased to introduce this bill with Chairwoman Stabenow as it will provide a new investment tool for donors wishing to dedicate their own resources to agriculture research. Production agriculture's current economic strength is a direct result of research that-among other things-has increased crop yields, made livestock healthier, and made food safer. Our bill will facilitate the transfer of much-needed private funding to agricultural research."
"This bill will provide a crucial way for private charitable donors to support agricultural innovation," Rep. Nunes said. "It adjusts the tax code to help farmers, who are facing a difficult regulatory environment and many other challenges."
"I am a strong supporter of reforming the tax code to help spur economic growth. The Charitable Agriculture Research Act does just that by bolstering our agriculture industry," Rep. Kind said. "This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will help create incentives for charitable donations so we can strengthen the connection between the private sector and the agriculture research industry, and ensure that America stays on the cutting edge of agricultural innovation and production."
Over the last 60 years, agricultural research has expanded food production significantly. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, farm productivity has risen 158 percent since 1948; this increase is attributed to research, by implementing new changes in the efficiency of farming practices and the use of agricultural technology. Today, the United States produces $312 billion in agricultural products and exports $108 billion annually.
However, agricultural scientists warn that failing to invest in agricultural research could spell disaster for the future of American food security and safety. Agricultural research funding has become stagnant and has fallen far behind other federal agencies since the 1970s. The Charitable Agricultural Research Act seeks to address these challenges by creating agricultural research organizations (AROs) that would work in conjunction with agricultural and land-grant colleges and universities to conduct research in the field of agriculture.
The establishment of AROs will complement existing public and private research and also create the opportunity for previously under-funded projects to be fully funded, such as projects addressing specialty crops or specific diseases.
The Senate bill is S. 1280. The House bill is H.R. 2671.