Bipartisan legislation introduced to increase investment in ag innovation

Bipartisan legislation was introduced in the U.S. House and the Senate to foster innovative agricultural research and development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Advancing Cutting Edge Agriculture Act was introduced by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa). According to the lawmakers, the act would “bolster the agricultural leadership of the United States, strengthen American and global food supplies and help producers tackle 21st century agricultural challenges from pathogens and pests, high fertilizer prices, drought, poor soil health and extreme weather.”  Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

The 2018 Farm Bill established the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority at USDA to fill this gap and invest in high-risk, high-reward research and development in agriculture and food.

Investing in the development of novel agricultural technologies, approaches and data systems are frequently too technically and financially risky for private capital, lawmakers said. At the same time, advanced research and development is often left out of the priorities of existing USDA research programs, which leads to prioritizing lower-risk projects that reliably deliver incremental progress.

The act would double the authorization of the existing program from $50 million to $100 million to ensure access to agricultural innovation projects across multiple states. It also would expand the existing program’s scope to address animal and plant pathogens and pests, which could help farmers increase production capacity and competitiveness. It addition, it would provide opportunities for projects that could help farmers and ranchers use less water; enhance soil health; and mitigate, reduce, and/or sequester greenhouse gas emissions from farms and ranches.

“Our farmers face an evolving set of challenges and need new, groundbreaking agricultural technologies, approaches, and data systems to continue to survive, provide and thrive,” Panetta said. “For our farmers to continue to compete, they need to be equipped with cutting-edge tools that will push both American and global agriculture forward.”

Feenstra said continued investment in agricultural research and development is “vital to the success of our family farmers.”