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Thune backs ag research bill

John Thune

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers backing a proposal to spur new agricultural research by leveraging private dollars to create charitable partnerships between universities and private entities.

The bill, called the Charitable Agricultural Research Act and announced in a news release Friday, would amend the tax code to allow for the creation of new, charitable, tax-exempt agricultural research organizations, which are similar to medical research organizations that have been supporting innovation in medical sciences since the 1950s.

"In the current tight budget environment, Congress needs to enact innovative legislation, such as this bill, which will encourage private donors to help meet shortfalls in agriculture research funding," Thune said.

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, farm productivity has risen 158 percent since 1948; this increase is attributed to research, according to Thune and the other co-sponsors of the legislation, by implementing new changes in the efficiency of farming practices and the use of agricultural technology.

Today, the United States produces $312 billion in agricultural products and exports $108 billion annually.

The lawmakers say agricultural research funding has become stagnant and has fallen behind other federal agencies since the 1970s.

Co-sponsors of the legislation are Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis.