State Dialogue Event Tours Agricultural Research Facilities at University of Maryland
Washington, D.C. (Dec. 15) – Congressional staff toured agricultural research facilities at the University of Maryland in College Park and the Wye Research & Education Center for a State Dialogue event covering the importance of public funding for agricultural research to ensure global food security and innovations.
The Dec. 15 event, organized by Farm Journal Foundation, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the University of Maryland, included staff from both the Democratic and Republican sides of the House Agriculture Committee and from the office of Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD). The event showcased cutting edge agricultural research at the University of Maryland in College Park and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Agricultural research has one of the highest returns of any public investment, estimated at $17 to every $1 spent, yet public spending has declined in real dollars since 2003. Congressional staff are working on current and upcoming legislation that will impact public research funding, including the Build Back Better Act and the next farm bill, which will be negotiated starting in 2022.
“Farmers are facing increasing challenges from climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, and market volatility,” said David Hong, senior vice president of government affairs for Farm Journal Foundation. “Public funding for agricultural research is absolutely critical to enable producers to stay one step ahead of these issues, meet rising global food demand, and ensure safe, affordable, uninterrupted supplies of food for everyone.”
Public funding for agricultural research is needed to fill gaps left by the private sector, such as early stage investments that can pave the way for private-sector development later on, and research in smaller-acreage crops such as rice and wheat. Public research funding can also open up access to new technologies to smallholder farmers in developing countries, helping ease global hunger.
In addition, many universities across the U.S. are in need of significant infrastructure investments to upgrade facilities for the 21st century. APLU estimates that about 69% of buildings and facilities at U.S. schools of agriculture are at the end of their useful life.
“Imagine today’s agricultural scientists who are striving to create 21st century solutions yet hindered by facilities with failing utility systems and leaky roofs that were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s,” said Douglas L. Steele, Vice President of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources at APLU. “Federal investment to address longstanding maintenance needs at our nation’s agricultural colleges and universities is essential for the U.S. to maintain our status as a world leader in agriculture research, food production and addressing critical issues such as climate variability. Modernizing agricultural research infrastructure will accelerate innovation for our nation’s future.”
During the tour, Congressional staff met with university scientists and learned about research projects covering a wide range of topics, including the use of CRISPR technology in agriculture, aquaculture genomics, the impact of climate change on saltwater intrusion, food safety, precision agriculture, tools for supporting smallholder farming, and soil health. All of these projects and others demonstrated during the tour have goals for improving food quality and safety, increasing sustainable production, or benefiting farming and food production environments.
“The land-grant mission focuses on research, Extension, and workforce development as pertains to food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences. In my mind, this is a fundamental mission for the good of humankind. However, as a society, we are not investing enough in science to address these basic challenges," said Dr. Moses Kairo, Dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. "Recently, we paused to do just this. Congressional staff, faculty, farmers, graduate student researchers, and LGU administrators all spent time together to discuss science-based solutions to protect the Chesapeake Bay, increase food safety, and address global hunger."
“Opportunities to gather and establish meaningful and transparent dialogues among congressional staff, land-grant university faculty, researchers, students, and farmers are crucial as we strive to solve some of the world’s most relevant and immediate challenges,” said Dr. Craig Beyrouty, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland. “Here in our college, we greatly appreciate the visibility into our impact-driven work related to climate change, bioenergy, food security, Chesapeake Bay preservation, and more, and hope to educate lawmakers on the value of investing in both agricultural research and Extension, as they work in tandem to improve the lives and livelihoods of our citizens."
Whitney McFerron, Communications Manager
Farm Journal Foundation
About Farm Journal Foundation
Farm Journal Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving global food security by sustaining modern agriculture’s leadership role and ability to meet the vital needs of a growing population. The organization works to advance this mission through key issue areas, including global food security, agricultural research and development, nutrition, and conservation agriculture. To learn more visit www.farmjournalfoundation.org. For media inquiries, contact Whitney McFerron at email@example.com.