Opening Statement: Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Davis: To highlight research innovations achieved by our nation’s agricultural colleges and universities

Sep 29, 2015

Remarks as prepared:

Good morning.  I would like to welcome everyone here today to the third in a series of hearings highlighting agricultural research, extension and education programs.

On April 14th, this subcommittee had the honor of hosting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Hardin along with 17 bright and gifted young people involved in the 4H program.  These young men and woman spoke to us about the need and opportunity to build a coalition of urban and rural youth to enhance agricultural knowledge across our nation.  

Then on July 15th, the full Agriculture Committee held a historic hearing involving the presidents of all nineteen 1890 land grant universities in order to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the enactment of the second Morrill Act. 

This act, like its predecessor in 1862 contributed to our nation’s capacity to conduct research in support of agricultural production through the creation of land grant universities.

Since that time, we have added to our capacity by providing land grant status to designated tribal colleges in 1994, and quasi land grant status to Cooperative Forestry colleges under the McIntyre-Stennis Act, our nation’s veterinary colleges under the Animal Health and Disease capacity and infrastructure program, and most recently, Hispanic Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities in 2008.  We have likewise recognized the investment in agricultural research capacity in numerous unaffiliated colleges and universities and have authorized funding to further augment capacity and infrastructure at these designated Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture.

Together, this system of agricultural colleges and universities provides our nations farmers and ranchers with tremendous advances in technology as well as helping to solve problems ranging from food safety to resource conservation; from nutrition to water quality; and from diseases of livestock and crops to renewable energy production.

Two weeks ago, the agriculture committee heard from the various mission areas and agencies of the USDA.  Among the testimony we heard was commentary from the Research, Education and Economics mission area highlighting the return on investment from agricultural research.

For example, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) introduced 348 new plant varieties last year and filed 110 patent applications. Some of the work done by ARS has resulted in the insecticide Deet, the most common active ingredient in insect repellants, flaked mashed potatoes, sliced apples that stay fresh longer, and frozen foods.

A conclusion drawn by many stakeholders is that we must prioritize food and agricultural research within our national policy discussions.  I am convinced by what I have seen that public support for agricultural research does in fact have a high rate of return.  In fact, the International Food Policy Research Institute having studied the impacts of agricultural research and extension published since 1953 has concluded that this investment has provided an average annual rate of return of 48%. And to echo comments made by Pope Francis during his address to Congress just last week, I am “confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can made a vital contribution in the years ahead.”

We recognize that as we approach our discussions in developing the next farm bill, there are numerous policy challenges confronting our nation’s research sector.  Today, we will begin those discussions.  In doing so, we have assembled a panel of preeminent researchers representing some of our most illustrious agricultural colleges and universities and have asked that they focus on the successes that have resulted from this federal investment.

I am particularly honored that the Dean of the University of Illinois, College of Agriculture, Dr. Bob Hauser, is participating in this hearing. Dr. Hauser has served on the faculty in the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois for more than three decades and understands the importance of the agricultural research conducted at America’s land grant universities. I look forward to hearing from him and the other distinguished members of our panel about some of the great success stories from agricultural institutions across the country.

Before I introduce the rest of the panel, I would first like to recognize the distinguished ranking member of the subcommittee, Ms. Delbene for her opening statement as well as to introduce her honored guest.