Today, President Obama and I continue doing all we can to help farmers and ranchers impacted by the drought. As Congress comes back to Washington in September we will continue to encourage passage of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible – to give USDA tools to help those who have been impacted by drought, while giving more certainty for farmers and ranchers.
While the drought has taken a toll on agriculture this year, we also know that America’s history of agricultural innovation and research advancement means farmers and ranchers are better-prepared than ever before to mitigate its effects.
USDA scientists and research partners have helped to provide these important new tools for decades – and their work continues today.
For example, right now USDA scientists are working on the next generation of remote-sensing tools to better understand drought, and they’re actively researching ways to ensure higher-quality output in soybeans, corn and wheat grown in drought-prone areas. In fact, more than a dozen USDA genetics labs are engaged in crop drought mitigation research today.
USDA research is also helping improve the technology associated with irrigation equipment, to reduce spills and help manage limited water resources more effectively. By developing new software technologies and more robust forecasting models, USDA will help producers better manage water resources in the future.
Meanwhile, we’re strengthening USDA’s long history of support for researchers at public and land-grant universities nationwide. Every day, university researchers are working to solve complex challenges for agriculture – and much of this work will help mitigate drought.
In addition to the practical effects of research, we know that investing in agricultural research helps the economy. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns over $20 to the American economy.
That’s why we have worked hard to strengthen and modernize USDA’s agricultural research programs, even in a time of tighter spending.
In 2010 USDA created the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to better coordinate and manage agricultural research and extension programs. And we’ve focused our research in high priority areas, to take full advantage of limited resources while ensuring that world-class researchers have the tools they need to continue looking into pressing research issues.
Ultimately, agricultural research has a multitude of benefits. It strengthens our economy and lays the groundwork to create more jobs. It helps producers grow more crops, even in times of weather uncertainty. It helps farmers and ranchers conserve the natural resources we all hold dear. And it ensures that our nation will remain food secure by addressing today’s most challenging scientific questions.
The current drought is just one important reason to continue investing in agriculture research that will lead the world. That’s why at USDA, we will continue working hard to help producers out-innovate the world – while strengthening America’s capacity to solve tough problems in agriculture.
For an audio version of the Secretary’s Column, please click here.