Budget Cuts Threaten Farm Research

Budget cuts that passed the House of Representatives last month may threaten agricultural research across the United States. In June, the House passed a spending bill that cut over $300 million from the Department of Agriculture’s research budget. While the bill has not yet passed the Senate, it has prompted sharp debate over recent austerity measures in Congress and the future of agricultural production.

Agricultural research colleges across the country could feel the impact. In Mississippi, federally funded research at Mississippi State University helped wipe out the boll weevil which had threatened cotton production across the state. In Ohio, the Ohio State University’s watershed, a 1,050 acre outdoor lab, has been indispensible in studying soil quality and landscape issues in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. In Indiana, researchers at Purdue University have studied nutrient distribution in soil and who helped pioneer new pesticides and fertilizers.

These three colleges are part of the ten federally funded agricultural research centers across the United States that might close in the face of the budget cuts. Officials at these institutions have been quick to point out the need for these research centers, pointing out the revolutions in agricultural production that they helped develop.

In addition, they have cited recent studies and UN population estimates that indicate that current agricultural production will not be able to meet global need, pointing out the need for cutting edge research to end food insecurity. Small farmers, who rely on innovation to remain competitive, will also be negatively impacted by these closures.

Supporters of the budget cuts claim that agriculture is not being singled out and that the spending decreases are necessary to reduce the national debt. Like debates over farm subsidy cuts, supporters of austerity measures say that a failure to reduce the federal deficit could have disastrous consequences.

Agricultural scientists, however, claim that the long-term ramifications of these closures could be much worse that an unbalanced budget. The work done at the research centers, they say, save lives and helps control global food prices.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer