WASHINGTON — Illinois and Indiana university representatives and a Certified Crop Adviser were recently on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to continue agricultural research funding.
Todd Steinacher, AgriGold regional agronomist, was part of a four-member team in his role as a Certified Crop Adviser board member.
Other team members were Sylvie Brouder, Purdue University agronomy professor and American Society of Agronomy president; Jeff Volenec, Purdue agronomy professor and American Society of Agronomy president-elect; and Neha Chatterjee, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign biogeochemistry doctorate student.
The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America organized the congressional visits to lobby for research funding appropriations.
“They do a lot of advocating for production agriculture across disciplines, whether it is forestry, fruits and vegetables or corn and soybean production,” Steinacher said of the societies.
“The Purdue researchers were there to advocate why that’s important to them, the Illinois doctorate student was there to suggest the importance of how that funding impacts her education. I was there as an Illinois CCA to kind of be the glue that pulls it all together.
“As a CCA, we didn’t receive any financial gain from it, but yet we’re kind of the glue that says here’s how this works to benefit a farmer.”
Steinacher and his group urged the congressional representatives to support the continued funding for Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at $480 million, Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority at $50 million and the Competitive Equipment Grant Program at $5 million for fiscal year 2021. All of the programs were included in the 2018 farm bill, and funding needs to be re-appropriated.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture awards AFRI research, education and extension grants to improve rural economies, increase food production, stimulate the bioeconomy, mitigate impacts of climate variability, address water availability issues, ensure food safety and security, enhance human nutrition and train the next generation of the agricultural work workforce.
The 2018 farm bill established Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority pilot program to develop technologies, research tools, and products through advanced research on long-term and high-risk challenges for food and agriculture.
AGARDA focuses on research and development that private industry is unlikely to undertake. This research will help ensure that the United States maintains its position as a leader in global agricultural research and development.
The purpose of Equipment Assistance Grants is to distribute funding allocations provided by the Agriculture Appropriations Act. State agencies competitively award equipment assistance grants to eligible school food authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program.
The first day in the Beltway focused on training to prepare the team for the following day’s lobbying.
“They brought us all in with some of the USDA folks and taught us how to talk the lingo a little bit. They brought some staffers in from U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis’ office and some others to teach us how to talk to the staffs, how to set our meetings up, how the meeting is going to go. It was a full day of training,” Steinacher said.
“We went to the Hill on the second day and had eight meetings scheduled. Most of the time we met with congressional staffers who have a huge voice to the congressional person whether they want to approve something or not, and there were some we got to meet face-to-face. Rodney Davis was one of them and he’s a big supporter of this program and process.”
Steinacher said since Illinois and Indiana are major agricultural states, most of the congressional representatives were in support of funding these projects.
“It’s been funded for the last 10 years, so it just has to be redone so the dollars don’t maybe slip to a different area. Everyone was on board with it. They’ve heard of it, they support it,” he said.
“They had questions more for us about what the challenges are that farmers are going through over the last couple of years, whether it is pricing, late planting, environmental issues. So, we had great conversations on what impacts farmers in Illinois and Indiana.”
He added there were other groups representing states that aren’t as ag-heavy that questioned funding the programs.
“Well, at the end of the day we all get value from production agriculture, so I think that was the biggest takeaway. If we don’t stay ahead of this ballgame how are we going to provide food and fiber for all of us,” Steinacher said.