WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today held a hearing titled, “Agricultural Research and 2018 Farm Bill Implementation.”
“In crafting the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Ranking Member Stabenow and I, along with members of this Committee, recognized that we had to continue to build on the strong history of agricultural research in the United States,” said Chairman Roberts.
“I look forward to hearing an update from the Department about the implementation of these updated and new provisions. I am also interested to hear the status of other efforts related to the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area, including the relocation of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and NIFA to the Kansas City Region.”
To watch the hearing and read testimony, click here.
Click here to watch Chairman Roberts’ opening statement. Below are Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to order.
Over two years ago, we kicked off the 2018 Farm Bill process by holding a field hearing at Kansas State University, our land grant institution in Manhattan, KS.
A few months later, we held a hearing in this room where we heard from United States Department of Agriculture officials, representatives from research institutions, and agricultural producers.
We heard about the critical role that agricultural research has played throughout our country’s history. We also heard about the research priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill.
The needs are certainly great. Every day our producers encounter extreme and unpredictable weather, pests, and disease – just to name a few.
Researchers and institutions tasked with addressing these challenges are asked to do so with minimal federal resources and an aging infrastructure.
The United States produces the safest, most affordable, and abundant food and fiber in the world.
In crafting the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Ranking Member Stabenow and I, along with members of this Committee, recognized that we had to continue to build on the strong history of agricultural research in the United States.
With the enactment of the bill, the primary Department of Agriculture research, education, and extension authorities were reauthorized, including the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Land-Grant University formula funds, including the Hatch Act, Smith-Lever, McIntire Stennis, and Evans-Allen were extended. And, competitive grant programs were included to support research facilities and equipment improvements.
Provisions were included to bring equity to 1890 and 1994 institutions.
The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network was reauthorized and strengthened to support the mental health of farmers and individuals facing highly stressful working conditions.
New authorities were established, including the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AGARDA). It was modeled after authorities at other agencies including DARPA and BARDA, which allows USDA to carry out advanced research and development of qualified products, technologies, and research tools.
During the Farm Bill process, budgets were tight and many difficult choices were made in an effort to negotiate a bill that provides certainty and predictability.
Notably, the Research title was one of the few in the Farm Bill to receive an increase in mandatory funding over the life of the bill. In fact, it included nearly $800 million in mandatory funding over five years for research programs. That is a big investment.
I am very proud of the bipartisan effort to support agricultural research in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. And I know my Ranking Member shares that pride.
This morning, I look forward to hearing an update from the Department about the implementation of these updated and new provisions.
I am also interested to hear the status of other efforts related to the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area, including the relocation of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and NIFA to the Kansas City Region.
My home state of Kansas has a strong history of agricultural research, including Kansas State University, the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility currently under construction, and the broader Animal Health Corridor. The relocation of ERS and NIFA to this region would allow these agencies to access the many existing resources and benefits of the region.
Research and analysis are essential to the work the Department does for producers and for the U.S. agricultural economy. With any significant structural change, it is vital that we ensure the research mission remains intact, and is supported and strengthened for this nation’s growers. For instance, we need to ensure that the Department continues to produce quality analytic reports without delay during this transition.
From the onset of the Farm Bill process, agricultural research was something every member could unite behind and support. This is true regardless of what state each member hails from or what crops are grown there.
This bipartisan, bicameral support for agricultural research continues and is key as we seek to keep working together to strengthen U.S. agriculture.
Now, I recognize Senator Stabenow for any remarks.