Supporting Agricultural Initiatives

Research is a fundamental component in the health of the American agriculture industry. Not only does it safeguard the interests of producers and processors but it also is responsible for improving farming practices that affect all consumers.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), a segment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, studies national industry priorities to improve our country’s farming practices “from field to table,” according to its Web site. Research is financed through money secured by Congress in the annual budget. ARS partners with companies, organizations, universities and other countries to meet the following objectives:
• Ensure high-quality, safe food and other agricultural products
• Assess the nutritional needs of Americans
• Sustain a competitive agricultural economy
• Enhance the natural resource base and the environment
• Provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities and society

“So widespread are ARS’s crop improvements, you’re very likely to be buying a product of ARS research any time you shop for produce. While many of these improvements—like extending harvest seasons, increasing growing range and improving disease resistance and tolerance to pests—appear at first glance to benefit only the farmer and rancher, they ultimately always benefit the public by making food more affordable and more available,” states the ARS research team.

Farms across America benefit from research findings; ranging from soil resource and watershed management techniques to the evolution of disease-resistant livestock. Innovations affect the national economy and industry as well as individual states with particular business markets. President Obama signed The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 into law March 11. The act allocates federal money to cabinet departments and includes, for example, $4 million in funds to targeted programs and services that support Ohio farmers.

“By investing in agricultural research and innovation, we help foster Ohio’s strong legacy of farming and empower the next generation of leaders in Ohio’s rural communities,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH.

Another advocate for industry research is The Foundation for Agronomic Research (FAR). FAR helps facilitate development and implementation of science-based research and education programs in applied crop and soil management. Like ARS, FAR supports important research and education programs to help bring science to the field for farmers and their advisers. Unlike ARS, FAR programs are funded through sponsorships, grants and agribusiness companies.

A question can be raised – What is the best way to organize and manage agricultural research? An ongoing debate exists about cost-effective research with some favoring the distribution of competitive grants to specific projects in individual states, while others argue that each state should conduct research about issues that affect the entire country.

Either way, research brings “science to your shopping cart” and ensures the continued success of the American agriculture industry.

How beneficial is agricultural research to the U.S.? Should more or less money be invested in research efforts? Toward what segments of the industry should ARS/FAR devote their research efforts?

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