Gannon: Ag Research Investments Will Mean More Jobs in Rural Iowa

Since its founding, Iowa has served as a global leader in food production and agricultural innovation. From George Washington Carver to Norman Borlaug to today’s student-leaders at Iowa State University: what happens in Iowa impacts agriculture around the world. The advancements made in our state are thanks in part to our world-class educational institutions and our public investments in research.

In recent years, however, our commitment to public, agricultural research has faltered. As developing countries like China, India and Brazil continue to increase their investments in research, U.S. public investment has fallen. This can be seen most directly at Iowa State’s Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station (IAHEES): the R&D wing of Iowa State’s agriculture programs. The Experiment Station was founded in 1888 to help advance science for Iowa’s citizens. That was the same year my great-great-grandfather purchased the first piece of land that is now our family farm. Since its highpoint in 2001, the Station has lost nearly 20% of its state funding. And under Republican leadership, state investment has been flat since FY 2015.

Each dollar we invest in the Experiment Station means more innovations to help our farmers increase their productivity, make conservation efforts more effective, and turn discoveries into business opportunities in value added agriculture. During the more than 115 years the Experiment Station has been around, it has continually shown that knowledge discovered during research has commercial uses that generate economic benefit. In fact, according to USDA, investments in agriculture research generate annual rates of return between 20 and 60%.

A great example of this is our state’s embrace of ethanol and biodiesel. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, ethanol and biodiesel production now accounts for 47,000 Iowa jobs and nearly $2.4 billion in household earnings.

Moving forward, it is essential we appropriately fund our commitment to remaining a world leader in agriculture. In order to do so, I am calling on the next Governor and Iowa Legislature to increase state investment at the Agricultural Experiment Station to $35,000,000 in the next four years.

This investment will be phased in according to the schedule, below:

FY 2020: $1,250,000

FY 2021: $1,250,000

FY 2022: $1,250,000

FY 2023: $1,363,123

Total Increase in State Funding = $5,113,123

Total State of Iowa Investment in Experiment Station in FY 2023 = $35,000,000

In total, this is an increase of 17.11% from the Experiment Station’s current budget. With this additional funding, researchers at Iowa State will be better prepared to compete for competitive grants administered by USDA and the private sector, can provide start-up packages for new faculty research and support initial, exploratory research, and provide for state-of-the-art labs and research farms.

During a time where our competitors and allies are investing in research to get ahead, the United States is at risk of falling behind. To ensure Iowa remains a world leader, we need to invest more in the future of agriculture. By increasing the Experiment Station’s funding by 17.11% we will discover new ways to be productive, innovative, and environmentally conscious. This necessary step is far more than merely an investment in research: its an investment in the future of our farmers, rural Iowa, and our state’s economy.