In a letter to House Agriculture Committee leaders, the American Soybean Association joined several agricultural groups urging committee members to consider a provision in the 2012 farm bill establishing a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, much like the provision already included in the senate version of the farm bill. In a separate letter, the groups also asked the committee to consider creation of Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Ag Affairs at USDA.
In the letters, the groups highlighted benefits from both proposed additions.
ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Nebraska, said a FFAR would be a complement to USDA's research programs.
"With an ever expanding global population and increasing demands for food and other agricultural products, increased investments in food an agricultural research are essential to maintaining our nation's food, economic and national security," Wellman said.
The groups addressed USDA's existing budget for research, explaining that an FFAR would generate new funding for food and agricultural research, and "provide a structure for new public-private research partnerships that will further USDA's mission."
Under Secretary Position
In a second letter, the groups also expressed reasons why a new position of Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Ag Affairs was needed, writing that the trade organizational structure at USDA has been unchanged for more than 30 years. The groups say agriculture has changed too much to stick to status quo.
"Over the last 30 years the challenges that U.S. agriculture faces in global markets have increased and markedly changed from primarily tariff barriers to phytosanitary and other non-tariff trade barriers," the groups wrote. "The U.S. agriculture and food industry is ideally positioned to experience significant growth in the decades ahead."
Also in the letter, the groups said that high-level representation was needed for trade negotiations with senior, foreign officials and within the Executive Branch. "[The position] will provide a singular focus on trade and foster more effective coordination of transparent, rules-based trade policies in other USDA agencies."