In this issue of the AgReport, we celebrate the land-grant university system established during the height of the Civil War when new, big ideas were critical to help heal our divided nation and support a new economy. During such a turbulent time, it took the courage and forward thinking of President Abraham Lincoln and congressional leaders of the day to promise the resources to endow a land-grant college in every state. The investment has surely paid off.
Land-grant universities have played a critical role in agricultural innovation, strengthening our agricultural economy, protecting the health and safety of our citizens, and ensuring our ability to feed a growing population. In dollars and cents terms, every dollar spent on agricultural research in Kansas returns $17, according to TEConomy Partners, a company which provides research, analysis and strategy for innovation-driven economic development.
Unfortunately, a severe lack of funding to modernize agricultural research facilities across the country has been tying the hands of researchers in the development of new and better solutions and in preparing the future scientists we need to create those solutions.
Today, U.S. investment is below 1980s levels while other countries such as China and Brazil are investing heavily – outspending us by billions of dollars in agricultural research, according to a report released in March by Gordian, a leader in construction cost data. This trend could ultimately have dire economic and security implications for our nation.
Agriculture, food and related industries contribute $1.1 trillion to our nation’s economy and support 22 million jobs a year. In Kansas, agriculture represents 54% of the state’s economy, and 21% of our people have agriculture-related jobs. While other countries invest to become more competitive, we must do the same.
As congress considers options to improve American infrastructure, leaders of the nation’s land-grant universities hope food and agriculture research facilities will be a priority to rebuild America, protect our agricultural economy and ensure our ability to advance science.