Groups praise founding of Davis-Panetta ag research caucus |

Groups praise founding of Davis-Panetta ag research caucus

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation have praised Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., for establishing the bipartisan Congressional Agriculture Research Caucus.

Davis and Panetta announced this week they had established the caucus to educate and engage with their fellow members of Congress on the importance of agriculture research, innovation and mechanization in preparation for the 2018 farm bill. A Panetta spokeswoman said the two leaders hope that other members will join the caucus.

“As a representative of the salad bowl of the world, I believe it is of the utmost importance to equip our growers, shippers and farmworkers with the most effective tools possible,” Panetta said in a statement. “Strategic investments in research for plant breeding, crop protections and mechanization will support the future success of the agriculture industry while also helping to address major concerns relating to resource conservation and labor shortages.”

“By investing in agricultural research today, we will ensure U.S. agriculture remains competitive globally and continues to lead the way in food and agriculture innovation,” Davis said. “I joined Congressman Panetta to create the Agriculture Research Caucus so members of Congress have a place to highlight the importance of agricultural research in their districts across the country and come together to make it a national priority. My district is home to several major universities that are at the forefront of agricultural research critical to our state and national economies. Additionally, the potential for public-private partnership between industry and academia allows us to expand our horizon and reach new goals. I look forward to joining my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make agriculture research a priority.”

Greg Fogel, policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said, “We hope this caucus will amplify the importance of farmer-driven research, extension, and education programs and champion long-overdue increases to both discretionary and mandatory research funding through the annual appropriations and farm bill reauthorization.”

Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation, said, “While the caucus will look at emphasizing research programming in the 2018 farm bill negotiations, we also hope they focus on the fiscal year 2018 budget and push back on the cuts to the USDA proposed by the White House.

“Ten years ago, momentum for reshaping how the USDA funds research was building in Congress in a similar way and, as a result, the 2008 farm bill established the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative,” Grumbly continued. “This program has become the USDA’s flagship source for competitively awarded grants — but the program budget has also never reached the level authorized in the farm bill.

“Farmers face a deluge of threats — the markets, the weather, the pests, the operating expenses – everything is changing at unsustainable speeds,” he concluded. “Cold, hard science is the lifeblood of the USDA and the one thing that can help farmers adapt and adjust so that the food on Americans’ dinner table remains safe and nutritious.”