By Dr. Susan Schram,
AIARD Washington DC Secretariat,
Education and Advocacy Committee Chair
Thanks to the good work of the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Farm Journal Foundation, Agricorps, the Senate and House Agriculture Committee staff, and others, the December passage of the 2018 Farm Bill is good news for professionals who develop and implement programs in international agriculture. Following are some relevant highlights:
1. Title VII—Research, Extension, and Related Matters, Subtitle A, Section 7101 is perhaps the most important section as it lays out the purposes of agricultural research, extension, and education and amends Section 1402 of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 by adding: ‘‘(9) support international collaboration that leverages resources and advances priority food and agricultural interests of the United States, such as— ‘‘(A) addressing emerging plant and animal diseases; ‘‘(B) improving crop varieties and animal breeds; and ‘‘(C) developing safe, efficient, and nutritious food systems.’’
This language represents a significant shift toward Congressional recognition that American agriculture, while world-class, increasingly relies on global engagement for science, markets, and innovation. While United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) remain the lead government agencies in working with developing and transitional countries, Congress is aware now more than ever that the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) domestic programs are strengthened through international partnerships.
2. Title III, Subtitle C:
The Secretary of Agriculture will consult with FFA, the National 4–H Council, and others to identify candidates for the fellowships. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, hold at least a bachelor’s degree in an agricultural-related field, and understand U.S. school-based agricultural education and youth extension programs.
3. Title VII, Subtitle A:
(2) improving agricultural research;
(3) supporting the participation of U.S. institutions in programs of international organizations (e.g. the United Nations, the World Bank, regional development banks, and international agricultural research centers);
(4) improving agricultural teaching and education;
(5) assisting U.S institutions in strengthening their capacity for food, agricultural, and related research, extension, and teaching programs relevant to agricultural development activities in developing countries to promote the application of new technology to improve education delivery;
(6) providing support for the internationalization of resident instruction programs;
(7) establishing a program, to be coordinated by the Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, to place interns from U.S. institutions in, or in service to benefit, developing countries; and
(8) establishing a program to provide fellowships for students at U.S institutions to study at foreign agricultural colleges and universities.
This section also requires the Secretary of Agriculture to enhance linkages among U.S. institutions, the Federal Government, international research centers, counterpart research, extension, and teaching agencies and institutions in developed countries and developing countries: “(1) to carry out the activities; and (2) to make a substantial contribution to the cause of improved food and agricultural progress throughout the world.” The bill authorizes $10,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2019 - 2023 to carry out activities in Section 7123.
“(A) to develop and deploy advanced solutions to prevent, prepare, and protect against unintentional and intentional threats to agriculture and food in the United States;
“(B) to overcome barriers in the development of agricultural technologies, research tools, and qualified products and projects that enhance export competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and resilience to extreme weather;
“(C) to ensure that the United States maintains and enhances its position as a leader in developing and deploying agricultural technologies, research tools, and qualified projects and products that increase economic opportunities and security for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities; and
“(D) to undertake advanced research and development in areas in which industry by itself is not likely to do so because of the technological or financial uncertainty.
AGARDA would be a component of the Office of the Chief Scientist at USDA and Congress authorizes $50,000,000 per year, 2019-2023 for this program.
4. And finally, Subtitle F, Section 7603
authorizes the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). While FFAR’s activities are primarily domestic, they have included work with groups such as CGIAR Centers. After FFAR submits a strategic plan describing a path to become self-sustaining, the Secretary is authorized to transfer $185,000,000 to the Foundation to use until expended.
Because the Farm Bill only authorizes programs, funding for specific programs will also be contingent on available appropriations and administrative decision making but, in sum, the Farm Bill is a clear “win” for professionals engaged in international development.
For the text of the Farm Bill, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2/text
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