HOMER, N.Y. — U.S. Congressman Anthony Brindisi met today with farmers and agricultural thought leaders for a farm tour and roundtable discussion about the importance of agricultural research.
The event, held at E-Z Acres dairy farm in Homer, also included Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University, New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher, Joe Nehme, the Central New York Regional Director for Senator Chuck Schumer, and Catherine Bertini, a Distinguished Fellow of Global Food and Agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
At the event, Congressman Brindisi announced plans to co-sponsor the America Grows Act, which authorizes a 5% increase in annual funding for the next five years to four U.S. Department of Agriculture research agencies: the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Economic Research Service (ERS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
In particular, ARS and NIFA perform research across a wide variety of scientific areas, including ways to prevent pest and disease outbreaks from hurting farm productivity and our food supplies. This type of research is vitally important in the time of COVID-19, which has exposed how quickly diseases can spread and how vulnerable our systems can be when outbreaks occur.
“New York’s 22nd district is home to some of the most innovative and hard-working farmers in the country,” Congressman Brindisi said. “During this pandemic, our farmers have worked overtime to keep food on our shelves and our families fed. Today’s tour of E-Z Acres highlighted that a farm can be both sustainable and profitable. Now more than ever we need to be investing in ag research to make sure the farms of today are ready for the challenges of tomorrow.”
Improving Farm Profitability and Sustainability
Today’s event at E-Z Acres highlighted how research is being applied at the farm level to help farmers become more profitable and sustainable. E-Z Acres has worked as a case farm for Cornell CALS. Together with the university, E-Z Acres monitored its herd, soil, and crop data and developed a plan to sustainably improve cow health, milk output, and forage production – while at the same time reducing its environmental footprint, improving soil health, and protecting local water quality.
“When we first became a Cornell University case farm in 1997, our business was struggling, but the team’s research really helped us turn things around,” said Mike McMahon, an owner and senior partner at E-Z Acres. “Expanded public support for the kind of research taking place at Cornell University is absolutely critical for the future of American farming, if we want to maintain our global leadership position in the years ahead.”
Helping Farmers Weather Risks
The COVID-19 global pandemic underscores the need for increased long-term support for agricultural research, said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Today, the U.S. farm economy is in the worst shape since the 1980s, with challenges on multiple fronts – extreme weather, low prices, strained trade relationships, and COVID-19, which is wreaking havoc on farm and food supply chains. Agricultural research can provide solutions to help farms become more resilient against a myriad of risks. Technologies developed in the U.S. can also benefit small-scale farmers in developing countries who struggle to feed themselves.
“While the country’s short-term needs are many during this pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the long-term gains of funding agricultural research and development,” Dean Boor said. “To achieve the sweeping, transformational changes essential to truly sustainable agricultural systems, we need a reinvestment in applied agricultural research and a reorientation of the national research portfolio to include consideration of sustainability issues.”
A Vitally Important Industry
Agriculture is a $5.75 billion industry in New York and vitally important for the economy, contributing 200,000 jobs statewide. Dairy is New York’s top agricultural product, and provides about 26,000 jobs across New York.
“Agricultural research is at the heart of what we do on the farm today,” said David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau. “It has given us increased crop efficiencies, led to better animal care, and improved sustainability. It will also help us meet challenges moving forward, like invasive species, extreme weather, and processing needs. If we are to have a stronger food system in New York and the country, we must continue to invest in our land grants and agricultural research.”
Agricultural research has one of the highest returns of any public investment, estimated at $20 to every $1 spent, according to studies or research conducted at the University of Minnesota. Yet U.S. public spending on agricultural research has been stagnating. Today, China, India, and Brazil are outspending the U.S. on public agricultural research by a factor of 2.33 to 1.
“To keep a competitive edge in agriculture, the U.S. needs to deepen its investment in public agricultural research and development, and promote technologies and advances that help farmers become more profitable,” said David Hong, Director of Government Affairs at the Farm Journal Foundation.
Today’s event was organized by the Farm Journal Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving global food security by sustaining modern agriculture’s leadership role and ability to meet the vital needs of a growing population.
–New York Farm Bureau
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