Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan testified before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture in a full-committee public hearing on university research investments in the next farm bill Thursday morning in Washington, D.C.
The committee invited university leaders from across the nation to testify about opportunities and challenges faced in agricultural production and research, and the role of universities in agriculture sustainability. Duncan was the only chancellor from a system or university to participate in the hearing.
“The importance of U.S. agriculture is a nexus of our economic viability, national security and human health,” Duncan said during his five-minute testimony. “Agricultural outputs are going to need to increase to keep pace with a growing population, but this cannot come at the expense of natural resources or the environment. Investments in innovation and research are required to meet and exceed our needs.”
Duncan represented the general academic institutions of the Texas Tech University System, Texas Tech University (TTU) and Angelo State University (ASU). Both schools are home to non-land-grant colleges of agriculture located in the nation’s epicenter of food and fiber production.
Congressman K. Michael Conaway, whose district includes ASU in San Angelo, the TTU campus in Junction, and the Midland and Odessa campuses of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), is the chairman of the agriculture committee.
“Research is the driving force behind American agricultural innovation,” said Chairman Conaway. “The Texas Tech University System has a proven track record as a highly respected research institution, and it was a pleasure to hear from Chancellor Duncan on the importance of continuing public investment in agricultural research. While our nation’s serious budget issues must be addressed, we must do so without jeopardizing our status as the world leader in cutting-edge agricultural research.”
The committee began discussion about leveraging federal funding through state and private dollars, and specifically referenced Texas Tech University’s partnership with Bayer Crop Science.
“In the state of Texas we created the Texas Research Incentive Program. It is a program where research universities are awarded matching funds from the state based on how much an institution raises in private gifts and endowments to enhance research activities,” Duncan said. “This is very attractive to private partnerships and allowed us to leverage the partnership with Bayer Crop Science to establish the $15 million teaching and research Bayer Plant Science Building. Not too long ago, we received two major gifts from Teys Australia and Cargill, which will also be matched through TRIP funds, to support research in meat science.”
In his testimony, Duncan highlighted the importance of continuous, predictable funds to build research capacity through faculty and infrastructure support at non-land-grant institutions to increase the competitiveness of these institutions when applying for federal research grants.
The 2017 requested annual research budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is $2.9 billion, which Duncan notes is disproportionately less than other federal research programs. The National Science Foundation has $8 billion, NASA has $10 billion, the Department of Energy has $12.6 billion and the National Institutes of Health has a $33.1 billion research budget.
“We eat food every day. Food safety, food security and the ability to produce high quality food at a low cost – something we’ve been used to for all of our lives – will play a significant role in making contributions to the overall health and security of our nation,” said Duncan.
In 2015, Texas Tech University was ranked No. 1 among non-land grant colleges of agriculture in the National Science Foundation’s rankings for higher education agricultural research and development.
Angelo State University’s Management, Instruction and Research (MIR) Center hosts 6,000 acres of range and farm land. The Department of Agriculture works directly with regional commercial producers through development of seed stock in Angus Cattle, Rambouillet Sheep, Suffolk Sheep, Meat Goats and Dorper Sheep through breeding programs on the University Ranch.
Congressman Jodey Arrington, who represents TTU and TTUHSC’s flagship campuses in Lubbock as well as the Abilene campus of TTUHSC, was in attendance as a freshman member of the committee.
The farm bill serves as the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. In the hearing, committee members stressed the importance of streamlining and prioritizing agricultural research in the next farm bill to continue advancement of industry and agriculture security while being mindful of existing budget restraints.
– Robert Duncan, Chancellor, Texas Tech University System (Lubbock, Texas)
– Dr. Jacqueline Burns, Dean for Research, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (Gainesville, Florida)
– Dr. Glenda Humiston, Vice President, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California (Oakland, California)
– Dr. Walter H. Hill, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutritional Sciences and Vice Provost for Land-Grant Affairs, Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, Alabama)
– Dr. Steven H. Tallant, President, Texas A&M University-Kingsville (Kingsville, Texas)
– Carrie L. Billy, President and CEO, American Indian Higher Education Consortium (Alexandrian, Virginia)
(News release from Texas Tech)