The National Pork Producers Council, in testimony delivered last week, urged Congress to renew its commitment to funding agricultural research to help America’s farmers feed a growing world population, improve public health and strengthen U.S. national security by ensuring America’s food security.
NPPC chief veterinarian Liz Wagstrom told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology that the United States is the “lowest-cost and most technologically innovative producer of food in the world … and has the safest food on the planet” because of the country’s historical commitment to research.
She points out that research helped the U.S. pork industry deal with diseases such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and the H1N1 influenza virus. But, she adds, U.S. agriculture remains vulnerable to emerging and foreign animal diseases.
A disease the pork industry and other livestock sectors are particularly concerned about, Wagstrom testified, is foot-and-mouth disease. The United States doesn’t have enough vaccine to address an FMD outbreak, which, if unchecked, would cost the pork, beef, corn and soybean sectors, alone, $200 billion over 10 years.
The NPPC is urging Congress to establish and fund through the next farm bill a manufacturer-managed FMD vaccine bank and is requesting funds for animal disease diagnostics and research that “can help address the alarming gap in the government’s preparedness for an FMD outbreak.”
Wagstrom also told the subcommittee that the federal commitment to agricultural research seems to have waned recently, pointing out that from 1970 to 2008 50% of the USDA’s budget went to research but by 2013 it was less than 30%.
One factor for that decline, she says, is the increased costs of operating federal research facilities. She asked Congress to ensure adequate funds for operating agricultural research facilities “over and above” research dollars.
“The U.S. pork industry strongly supports and urges a significant increase in funding for federal … agricultural research and grants to help America’s farmers and ranchers continue feeding the world with safe, wholesome and nutritious food,” Wagstrom told the subcommittee.