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Ag Research:  USA vs CHINA

OMAHA (DTN) -- Everyone in Congress loves "cutting-edge" agricultural research, they just don't pay for it very well. The result is that dollar for dollar, U.S. agricultural research spending actually declined over the past decade while China, the European Union, India and Brazil -- among others -- have increased their investments in agricultural research dollars. Groups committed to boosting ag research spending in the farm bill want nearly $7 billion more in committed mandatory spending over the next decade.

Still, that desire for cutting-edge agricultural research was spotlighted last week when a pair of senators and congressmen rolled out the ACE Agriculture Act. In their news release, the lawmakers said their bill would take a program called the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA) at USDA and double its existing funding authorization from $50 million to $100 million "to ensure access to more transformative agricultural innovation projects across multiple states." The research community is growing increasingly concerned about stagnant funding in the research programs and the U.S. losing its competitive edge in agricultural research and development (R&D) to China. Earlier this month, a collection of more than 50 various groups wrote House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders with one of the biggest asks for the next farm bill. They want $8 billion in mandatory funding for the research title of the farm bill "to spur scientific breakthroughs, keep pace with our global competitors, modernize facilities and ensure nutrition security and a sustainable food system." Advocates for research funding highlighted some of their concerns earlier this week at a policy forum in Washington, D.C..


The agricultural R&D spending in China has grown exponentially in recent years while U.S. funding has stayed flat. Wayne Watkinson, a founding partner of Watkinson Miller, who represents several agricultural checkoff programs, pointed out that when the Chinese government decides to fund an agricultural research project, there's no annual debate needed about the funding. "There's no question. When they decide they are going to do it, they fund it," Watkinson said. "We put it in the discretionary budget where we have to fight for the dollars just to get them. It's a different system. We have to recognize that, and we have to deal with it." A House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Research and Biotechnology will also hold a hearing Thursday to review USDA implementation of research programs in the farm bill. USDA's Jacobs-Young is set to testify.


Agriculture is the hottest "investment" for the future

By Global Ag Tech Initiative

Global private equity firm Yellow Brick Capital have released a new report into why 2023 is a key time to invest in the fast-growing precision agtech arena. The report reveals that factors such as failing global economies, high inflation, supply chain challenges and an international food crisis all contribute to a redirection of investment out of more traditional markets and into precision agtech start-ups and technologies. The report found that shifting investment from the volatile and uncertain bonds and stocks markets into tangible product such as sustainability focused start-ups and operating companies, were providing notable returns on long term investments. And doing so at a more manageable risk. The investors are more in control of their money with product performance, development control and sales reports offering a sense of security on their investment. Alongside this, the report also found that looming global recessions and high inflation was driving money out of high-net-worth property markets across the world and into emerging markets such as ag-tech, fin-tech, and med-tech. On a practical level, this newer channel of investment (out of the financial markets and into more emerging markets), offered corporate investors ESG (environmental, social, governance) credentials; especially when their investment was in the agtech arena. By drawing their money out of stocks, shares, and bonds and into precision agriculture, investors and companies have been able to pledge their support for global food security and the bettering of our planet, whilst still maintaining their own financial interest with net positive returns, financially and societal. Johan van Zyl, CEO of Yellow Brick Capital commented: “The release of Yellow Brick Capital’s newest report finds an interesting shift in global investment trends. Though interest in tech markets has been steadily increasing over the past decade, over the past 24 months there has been a notable withdrawal from the financial markets into more tangible products, proven to offer returns while playing a role in making our planet sustainable. Alongside factors such as the COVID 19 pandemic, the battering tech companies have experienced leading to massive lay-offs, and the Ukrainian war, investors are now seeing the benefit in committing to the betterment of our planet through agtech as an investment vehicle. 2023 and beyond will undoubtedly see even greater investment into this market as more technological advances are made and the market scales.” Yellow Brick Capital, the London based private equity firm has itself boosted its precision ag-tech interest over the past five years, with plans for greater investment in the coming year. Technologies and companies falling under the Yellow Brick umbrella include precision fertilization software i-Plant Nutrition and Gro-Plant, fertigation hardware I-Feeder Technologies and ground-breaking plant sensor PlantMetrics. Yellow Brick Capital is also overseeing a new, landmark venture in Cambridge, YB IndoorFarm, that will see research into indoor farming and other agricultural advancements, while being an incubator for agtech start-ups.

EU vows to stop imports that support deforrestation

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union lawmakers and governments reached a deal Tuesday that would ban the import of products which contribute to deforestation around the world. The preliminary agreement, which still needs to be formally adopted by the EU parliament, requires companies to verify that the goods they sell in the EU have not led to deforestation and forest degradation anywhere in the world as of 2021. Companies need to show that goods they import comply with rules in the country of origin, including on human rights and the protection of indigenous people. Forests around the world are increasingly under threat from clearance for timber and agriculture, including soybean and palm oil. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 420 million hectares (1.6 million square miles) of forest - an area larger than the EU - were destroyed between 1990 and 2020. Pascal Canfin, who chairs the European Parliament’s environment committee, said the agreement by the 27-nation bloc marks a “world first.” “Europe will close its doors to the everyday products that have the highest impact on deforestation in the world if their importers are not able to demonstrate, with supporting documents, that they do not come from deforested areas,” he said. “It’s the coffee we drink in the morning, the chocolate we eat, the charcoal we use in our barbecues, the paper in our books. It’s radical, and that’s what we’re going to do.” More than 100 countries pledged last year to halt and reverse global deforestation by 2030, as part of efforts to combat climate change. Forests are an important natural means of removing greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, since plants absorb carbon dioxide when they grow.

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