Debate over the U.S. budget could threaten global food security, officials from the American Enterprise Institute report. As debate over the debt ceiling reaches its climax, politicians from both parties are frantically looking for ways reduce the federal deficit. Agricultural programs, already reeling from budget cuts made earlier in the year, are bracing themselves for even deeper cuts in the next few weeks.
However, some scientists and economists are arguing that agricultural research must be well funded in order to preserve the sustainability of American agriculture. Economists from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank that has advocated deep spending cuts in the past (including cuts to farm subsidies and crop insurance) have recently released statements claiming that agricultural research must continue to be funded in order to halt rising food prices. Cutting farm research, they claim, is self defeating and counterproductive.
One of the examples they point to is the Kansas State University seed bank, run by Bikram Gill, which has had its budget cut in the past year. The research from the seed bank has helped scientists develop hardier wheat strains, including some that are resistant to leaf rust. Overall, the seed bank helps generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue (boosting revenue from traditional agricultural production), a major turnaround of the bank’s million dollar budget. However, without federal funding, the seed bank is in danger of shutting down.
The lack of research funding also has larger national consequences. Since the 1950s, food production has increased exponentially. However, since the 90s, productions rates have slowed considerably and prices have risen, a change, some agricultural experts claim, that resulted from reductions to agricultural research funding starting in the 90s and continuing today.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer