Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and John Thune (S.D.) this week introduced a bipartisan bill with Reps. Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Ron Kind (Wisc.) 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 (AROs), which are similar to medical research organizations that have been successfully supporting innovation in medical sciences since the 1950s.
Over the last 60 years, agricultural research has expanded food production significantly. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 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 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.