Yesterday, June 18, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed concerns about the proposed budget cuts to research and asked those in the seed industry to help educate friends in Congress about its importance.
At the American Seed Trade Association’s 132nd Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., Vilsack told attendees that Congress is looking at a budget for USDA that is $3.3 billion less than it was when he first became secretary. This proposed budget would go into effect Oct. 1.
“Given the need for America to remain competitive, given the fact that we have great universities, given the fact that we have committed for over 150 years the important role of our land-grant universities, one would think that we would look for ways to support research both privately and publicly,” Vilsack said.
He explained that a good portion of the budget cuts have come from research, primarily research facilities associated with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Agriculture Statistics Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
“Support for research needs to be an ongoing commitment,” Vilsack said. “There’s probably not a company in this room that hasn’t made a significant commitment to research and hasn’t made it year after year, after year. And it has probably taken that long for the innovations that the companies in this room have created to take hold.
“It can’t just be a one-off opportunity; it has to be a long-term commitment. I certainly appreciate the importance of other aspects of our economy and the research that needs to take place in things like healthcare. But fundamentally, it all starts with our ability to feed our people. It all starts with our ability to maintain our vibrant rural economy.”