Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Colleges Hoping Farm Bill Had more Research Funds

The farm bill that is working its way through contains many programs, some of which are focused on agriculutral research. Many universities sought to increase the amount of funds going towards agricultural research as the level of these funds has dropped in recent years.

Colleges have long argued for increasing the Department of Agriculture's total pending for research, education, and extension, which stands this year at $2.7-billion, of which $1.2-billion is for extramural grants. Academic officials point out that the total figure grew by less than 2 percent annually from 1970 and 2005, a decline after inflation is considered.

The Agriculture Department awards most of the extramural money among states, using population-based formulas and project-specific earmarks, but experts on agricultural research have called for years for the agency to distribute much more of the money through open competitions to increase quality. Only about 10 percent is handed out that way now.

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