Akridge focused his comments on the need to support both capacity funds (including those provided under the Hatch, Smith-Lever, McIntire Stennis, Evans-Allen, and 1890s Extension Acts) and competitive funds under the Agriculture Food Research Initiative (AFRI). He cited the current level of funding as insufficient to address the myriad challenges facing the nation and world. Public and land-grant universities are the nation’s primary centers for agricultural research, education, and outreach.
"Land-grant universities and colleges of agriculture have answered the call for the research education needed by our industry in the past, and can in the future. We are prepared to play our role in conducting the research required and the education needed to drive U.S. agricultural competitiveness," Akridge testified. "Continued public investment in agricultural research and Extension is fundamental to addressing the challenges our nation faces, and ultimately supports the global competitiveness of the U.S. agricultural sector."
APLU’s BAA promotes and supports agriculture in all its phases (including food, environment, natural resources, and international outreach) and in the three-part public university mission of providing research, education, and Extension. The BAA includes the deans of agriculture and other university leadership from academic agriculture programs, Cooperative Extension, experiment stations, and international agriculture from land-grant and non-land-grant colleges of agriculture.
Akridge emphasized how U.S. competitiveness is affected by agriculture investments, as many nations are increasing agricultural research and development expenditures at a pace far exceeding U.S. support. The decline in research and development spending has occurred despite consistent evidence of the large return on investment from U.S. public investment in agricultural research.
APLU’s created a commission, the Challenge of Change, to examine challenges to food security and will soon release recommendations on the actions public research universities must take to meet global food needs by 2050.
Akridge’s testimony also highlighted the impact Cooperative Extension has in the more than 3,000 counties across the country that depend on the system for unbiased insight in agricultural, health, and community development. Additionally, he called for investments in infrastructure that can address the estimated $8.4 billion of deferred maintenance to facilities, laboratories, classrooms, and more at colleges of agriculture across the country.