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Bipartisan legislation would boost funding for ag research

Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jim Talent (R-MO) yesterday introduced the National Food and Agriculture Act of 2006, which would boost investment in food and agriculture research.

The legislation would implement recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research, Education and Economics task force established in the 2002 farm bill. The task force found that underfunding of agriculture research in the U.S. puts farmers at a disadvantage from foreign competitors. One key recommendation was to establish a National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the USDA which would supplement ongoing research. The Harkin/Talent legislation implements this recommendation by directing USDA to create a NIFA that provides agriculture researchers additional funds through a competitively awarded grant program.

"We're coming up woefully short on our food and agriculture research," said Harkin, ranking democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. "This bill will put us back on track to leading the world with cutting-edge technology that will keep America's farmers the most productive in the world."

"America has the safest, most abundant and least expensive food supply in the world," said Talent, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Marketing, Inspection and Product Promotion. "The heart of food production in the United States and the world is the American family farmer and rancher. Our plan will expand the development of research programs to improve human health, increase agricultural production and provide our producers with a competitive edge in the global marketplace."

The amount of funding going into researching to improve profitability on farms, economic growth and jobs in rural America, consumer well-being, and conservation of natural resources has remained flat for roughly two decades. USDA's task force noted that the amount of funding designated for competitively awarded, peer-reviewed agriculture grants is outpaced 100 to 1 by the National Institutes of Health. The NIFA would increase funds available for food and agriculture research in addition to the current available resources at USDA's Agricultural Research Service and Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.

Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jim Talent (R-MO) yesterday introduced the National Food and Agriculture Act of 2006, which would boost investment in food and agriculture research.

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