Essential Ag research may fall behind if federal funding continues to slow

Farmers are hard at work planning for planting season over the next few months.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 5:50 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Farmers are hard at work planning for planting season over the next few months.

While the work is difficult, technology helps them work smarter. And just like a seed becomes a crop, technology started from research but the government dollars to do the studying are dropping.

A drop in federal funding means crucial climate-smart practices, like many used on Lukas Fricke’s farm in Butler County might not be developed and researched in the future.

“There’s people that are never going to be able to see us but they’re going to put something that grew on our farm in their mouth,” Fricke said. “So we got to be pretty good stewards of what we’re doing.”

A recent study published by the USDA’s economic research service shows U.S. public agricultural research and development investment has declined by about one-third in the last two decades.

“Agricultural research is a foundation of agricultural productivity,” said Brad Lubben an Agricultural Economist at UNL. “Which is an important contribution to the economic growth of the country as a whole. And so the decline in real terms of ag research funding is a real concern.”

Practices on Fricke’s farm like strip-tilling to preserve the microbiome and lower carbon emissions. Using milo to prevent cross-pollination and sensors that tell the team how their hog barn is working, started as research.

“There’s a basic role for research,” Lubben said. “And that is to create both the basic understanding and knowledge to move further research forward.”

But the USDA has said agricultural productivity has grown in recent decades, and private-sector research funding has increased.

Lubben said that often federally funded research creates a foundation.

“You take basic findings and move them toward sort of final consumer products or commercial products and activities,” Lubben said. “That’s the thing that turns into the new technology that we adopt.”

An example of this is the carbon market, which aims to create an equilibrium for carbon emissions.

The Fricke’s farm partners with Land O’Lakes to sell ‘carbon credits.’

“I can sell additional carbon that I Sequester out of the soil off my basic farm practices to help offset the other person,” Fricke said.

Lubben said getting an increase in federal funding requires action at the federal level, in the form of the U.S. Farm Bill due this September.