Because of stagnant funding levels for public agriculture research and development (R&D), the United States is falling far behind competitors, such as China and Brazil, a new report says. The growing funding gap poses risks to American farmers’ productively and profitability, as well as to the bountiful and affordable food supply enjoyed by American consumers, according to the authors of the report that was jointly commissioned by Farm Journal Foundation and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
An innovation leader
“The U.S. has always been a leader in agricultural innovation, but we’re at risk of losing that advantage by falling behind the rest of the world in research and development,” said Zippy Duvall, AFBF president.
U.S. public spending on agricultural research has stagnated in recent decades, according to the report, conducted by IHS Markit Agribusiness Consulting Group. For example, U.S. Department of Agriculture agricultural research agency budgets have been relatively flat at around $4.2 billion in 2020 compared with $4.1 billion in 2010.
During the same period, U.S. competitors including China, Brazil and India have all been accelerating their public funding for agricultural research and development. China, for example, in 2009 became the world’s largest public funder of agricultural R&D.
New innovations are crucial so that farmers can increase their productivity and meet rising global demand for food, even as climate change intensifies, the report said. The world population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, and food production will need to increase by 60% to 70% to meet rising demand.
Covid shows dangers
COVID-19 should be a wake-up call that more public research funding is needed to address unexpected shocks, said Tricia Beal, CEO of Farm Journal Foundation. “The pandemic created huge challenges for agricultural supply chains around the world. It also showed just how quickly pathogens can spread. Increased public support for agricultural research is crucial for finding solutions to make our entire food system more resilient.”