Budget reconciliation in House ag committee has merit

(Journal stock photo.)

What is in the House Agriculture Committee’s Build Back Better Budget Reconciliation Package? And, why is investing in agricultural research important?

The Build Back Better Budget Reconciliation Package includes several bipartisan proposals calling for critical investments to support agricultural education and research, improve the quality of life in rural communities and mitigate climate change.

Included in the package is $7.75 billion in strategic investments in agricultural research—$3.65 billion of that would help build new or renovate existing agricultural research facilities across the country.

This is welcome news to leaders of America’s land-grant universities, who have warned for years that the deteriorating conditions of agricultural research buildings across the country threaten the nation’s security, economy, health and even existence.  While United States public investment in agricultural research is below 1980s levels, other countries, like China and Brazil, are outspending us significantly.

They know what the U.S. has proven: Agricultural research is an exceptional investment—at K-State, every $1 in ag research returns $17, according to a 2020 analysis by TEConomy, a leader in providing research, analysis and strategy for innovation-based economic development.

K-State’s College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension generate critical value within the state’s largest industry, agriculture, through higher education, research and extension. Below are just four examples of K-State work to support, sustain and expand agricultural production in Kansas that together have an estimated annual economic impact in Kansas of $494.9 million.

• $337.8 million in estimated value of 2019 Kansas wheat production using K-State wheat varieties and blends.

• $60 million in projected output impacts of K-State Drop XL water optimized sorghum for Kansas.

• $20.1 to $23.4 million annual impact for K-State intensive stocking recommendations for beef cattle.

• $77 to $93 million in annual impact of K-State prescribed fire practices that improve grazing and weed control.

Research universities are essential drivers of new knowledge creation. In an increasingly complex and competitive global economy, the development, transmission and application of knowledge are essential to remaining competitive. Research and development at the K-State College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension help drive the production of new knowledge in fields such as science, technology, economics, health and other areas critical to our economic prosperity, social well-being and national security.

Meanwhile, the college arms undergraduate and graduate students with new knowledge and skills and prepares them to serve as members of the skilled workforce and the next generation agricultural leaders for the state of Kansas.

K-State College of Agriculture students are in high demand: 97% of new graduates are employed or pursuing further education. Agriculture-related business and industry leaders are telling us they need more of our new graduates.

Innovation and a skilled workforce are key in creating and sustaining a strong economy.

Unfortunately, a severe lack of funding for agricultural research facilities across the nation is holding us back in the development of new and better solutions and in preparing the number of scientists and other professionals we need to create those solutions.

In the U.S., agriculture, food and related industries contribute $1.1 trillion to our nation’s economy and support 22 million jobs a year. Yet, 69% of the ag buildings are more than 25 years old and require urgent upgrades. We can no longer expect cutting-edge research and teaching to come from facilities with failing utility systems, leaky roofs and outdated technology and equipment.

We hope Congress will pass the Build Back Better Budget Reconciliation Package protecting the $7.75 billion in investments in agricultural research and infrastructure.

An investment in American agriculture offers an incredible 17:1 return rate while helping protect our global competitiveness, food security and safety, high-paying jobs, quality of life and climate change resilience.

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—J. Ernest Minton is the dean of the College of Agriculture and director K-State Research and Extension at Manhattan, Kansas; and Simon Tripp is the principal and senior partner and TEConomy Partners LLC, Columbus, Ohio.