Title VII directs USDA to conduct agricultural research at the federal level and provides support for cooperative research, extension, and post-secondary agricultural education programs in the states. In the 2018 Farm Bill, high priority research and extension program areas were: macadamia tree health, national turfgrass research, fertilizer management, cattle fever ticks, and laying hen and turkey research (USDA ERS).
The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which aims to fund projects to enhance the ability of producers that have adopted organic standards to produce and market organic crops and products, was reauthorized, and its mandatory funding levels were increased to $30 million. However, matching grant requirements for the program were reverted to pre-2014 Farm Bill standards.
Reauthorization of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) included expanded program eligibility to include “size-controlling rootstock systems for perennial crops,” “emerging and invasive species,” and more (Congressional Research Service). The SCRI has five legislative focus area priorities: 1) research in plant breeding, genetics, and genomics; 2) efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases; 3) efforts to improve production efficiency, productivity, and profitability over the long term; 4) new innovations and technology, including those that delay or inhibit ripening; and 5) methods to prevent, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards (National Institute of Food and Agriculture).
Other research programs, including the A New Beginning Initiative, were geared specifically towards Land Grant institutions and tribal colleges to better support students committed to pursuing careers in food and agricultural sciences. These programs not only offer financial assistance to students, but also provide important opportunities to engage in research in a defined area and help beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers develop necessary skills.
Authorization of research of industrial hemp production aims to determine the economic viability of domestic production and the sale of hemp.
A new Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AGARDA) was created as a pilot authority to “develop technologies, research tools, and products through advanced research on long-term and high-risk challenges for food and agriculture” (USDA ERS). AGARDA is intended to help keep the U.S. as a leader in global agricultural R&D by undertaking research that private industry is unlikely to undertake. This is important because while the private sector may only focus on research that results in profitable or marketable products, public-sector R&D focuses on research that can be more beneficial to society as a whole by working to solve larger issues.
Urban, Indoor, and Emerging Agricultural Production, Research, Education, and Extension Initiative authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to provide competitive grants to encourage organizations to develop new urban and indoor means of agricultural production. The program was allocated $10 million in mandatory funding in 2019 and annual appropriations of $10 million for 2019 through 2023.