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1,200 speak up for Federal research funding for Food and Agriculture

More than 1,200 individuals, companies, organizations, educational and research institutions, and other stakeholders have joined together to stress the vital importance of robust research funding for food and agriculture. This initiative represents one of the largest and most diverse efforts to speak up in support of science for food and agriculture.

The letter asks the members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the "super committee") to increase or at least maintain federal funding for research for food and agriculture as the committee develops overall budget proposals for the future. Recent studies have concluded that research funding for food and agriculture needs to be increased steadily and significantly if future challenges are to be met. For example, signatory Dana Peterson, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, said that, "The super committee must maintain a long-term investment in the public agriculture research system if we are going to increase crop production to meet the demands of a growing, global population for nutritious food."

The select committee is the bipartisan group charged with issuing a recommendation to Congress by the end of November 2011 to reduce federal budget deficits by at least $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.

The signatories come from all 50 states and represent many sectorsfrom small family farms to large multinational corporations, from individual academic departments to some of the nation's largest and most prestigious educational institutions. Dr. Roger Beachy, former director of U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said that the extraordinarily broad range of interested parties emphasizes "the importance of U.S. agriculture remaining sustainable and internationally competitive into the future."

The success of the agriculture and food industry plays a significant role in the overall health of the U.S. economy and has been one of the few bright spots in recent years. In 2010, U.S. farms and ranches spent $288 billion to produce goods valued at $369 billion; the value of U.S. food and agriculture exports is expected to be more than $140 billion in 2011, creating a record trade surplus of $42.5 billion for the sector. Furthermore, the jobs of 21 million Americans depend on the vitality of the U.S. agriculture and food sector.

Investments in publicly funded research are critical for maintaining a successful agriculture and food sector. For every $1 invested in publicly funded agricultural research, $20 in economic activity is generated. Although the private sector engages in its own research and development, it depends upon the results of foundational research provided by public support. According to signatory Michiel van Lookeran Campagne, head of Syngenta Biotechnology, "Federally-funded research for food and agriculture has been a foundation on which technology innovators and growers in the U.S. have built the most competitive agricultural sector in the world. Syngenta invests about a $1 billion a year in R&D for agricultural innovation to help farmers improve productivity, and the sustainability of their business and the environment. We translate the knowledge from public sector research in basic science and technology into new products and techniques for growers. Federal funding for this research is essential for U.S. competitiveness."

As the letter concludes, "continued investment in science for food and agriculture is essential for maintaining the nation's food, economic, and national security," a statement that is endorsed by more than 1,200 individuals and organizations from across the United States.

The letter and list of signatories is available at <>.

Contact: Adam Fagen
American Society of Plant Biologists

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