Issue Deep Dive
US / Agricultural R&D
Last updated: October 10, 2023
In the United States, agricultural R&D is often linked to the issue of food security. The US food security program is a whole-of-government approach, led by USAID, under the Feed the Future Initiative, which began in 2010. The initiative is focused on strengthening agricultural growth, nutrition, and resilience. It works across agencies, the private sector, civil society, universities, researchers, and other governments. USAID works with 20 target countries as well as with other partners at the regional level.
The Feed the Future work is supported by the GFSS 2022-2026. This work is underpinned by the Global Food Security Act, first passed in 2016, then reauthorized in 2018 and in 2022. The Global Food Security Research strategy works in tandem with overall global food security work.
Research is one of the biggest priorities of the GFSS. There is a specific US Government Global Food Security Research Strategy for 2022-2026 which builds on the previous strategy from 2017. The primary partnership is with US universities and other domestic entities that have formed the basis for the national agricultural research systems for decades. One of the leading mechanisms for this partnership are the Feed the Future Innovation Labs, which are led by US colleges and universities. The labs work with partner countries to address food security challenges such as climate change and a growing global population. CGIAR is also a notable partner.
Science, Technology, and Innovation are also a part of the GFSS to encourage strong research and innovation among stakeholders and networks. It seeks to strengthen the ties between US universities and colleges with partner countries to improve R&D in the agricultural sector.
There is high interest within the Feed the Future initiative on areas of crop development, specifically seed varietal improvement and disease resistant crops, the roll-out of digital farm systems, and systems development to shape inclusive markets and provide support to partner countries. NbS and biodiversity are also high priorities within the Feed the Future initiative. There is medium to high interest within areas such as gender and women’s economic empowerment in agriculture, adaptation in agriculture, and agronomy, more specifically the improvement of soil health and reduction in the use of chemical inputs. There is little to no interest in the areas of crop discovery and crop energetics.
In 2021, bilateral ODA to agricultural R&D was estimated at US$140 million. Since 2017, the US has decreased its overall ODA funding to the agricultural sector while growing its reliance on the role of the private sector in the agricultural R&D space; this may have negatively affected growth in funding to agricultural R&D.
On June 22, 2023, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced that the US would provide an additional US$260 million in food assistance through the US food security initiative Feed the Future.
On June 15, 2023, the DFC announced its plan to adopt a more sectoral approach to development cooperation, entailing significant institutional reorganization. Health and agriculture are some sectors to be reorganized.
Agricultural R&D funding from the US is projected to grow in line with overall ODA to agriculture between 2023-2024. R&D is clearly mentioned in the GFSS. Food security remains a top priority for the US and is funded through various agencies and budget lines.
The estimations for agricultural R&D funding, both at aggregate and donor-specific level, are the result of a methodology created by SEEK Development and based on data from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification. Numbers for 2020 and 2021 are projections calculated based on figures for 2017-2019, as well as trends identified through qualitative research.
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