R&D focuses on crops, but what about communities?

October 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

The Economic Research Service, a division of the US Department of Agriculture, issued a report last month on the role and effectiveness of public and private investment in research and development in the country’s agriculture sector. The report mostly focused on this topic, but also included one insightful chart that Daily Yonder posted about last week:

As the Daily Yonder puts it:

The chart shows the descending amounts spent by public and private dollars on various topics. Most of the research is conducted on food manufacturing and crops. Less on animals, farm machinery and the environment. Even less on nutrition, food safety and statistics. And then, over on the far right hand of the scale, we can see that a bare amount was spent on “social and community development.” Literally, we spend billions of dollars trying to understand how crops and animals live, but only a smidgeon on how humans and their communities can grow and develop.

If we look just at the public sector investments, the green bars, it’s true– resources are heavily weighted toward crops and animals, and much less on the things that would help us understand how to make rural communities strong and resilient. Daily Yonder also points out that even crop research is mostly spent on just three commodities (corn, soybeans, and cotton).  Also, while biotechnology has boosted this research in the past few decades, there  has not been a corresponding boost in research on communities and local economies.

This is a far cry from what our rural communities need right now.

And that may be one reason why we know a heck of a lot about how to grow corn in a drought but not so much about how to develop rural communities that thrive.o wonder we have bountiful harvests and troubled towns.




Entry filed under: Agriculture Policy, Economic Development, Economy, Farm Policy. Tags: , , .

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