Bipartisan Bill Would Establish Charitable Ag Research Groups

September 15, 2011 Bookmark and Share

Bipartisan bills introduced in the House and Senate on Thursday would establish the legal structure for tax-exempt organizations focusing on agricultural research.

The Senate version was introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Committee Member John Thune (R-S.D.).

The legislation has seven other original co-sponsors in the Senate, who span nearly the breadth of the ideological spectrum in that body. They include Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.); Roy Blunt (R-Mo.); Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio); Thad Cochran (R-Miss.); Chris Coons (D-Del.); Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.); and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

In the House, the bill was introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), with 15 original cosponsors, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).

The new legislation would amend federal tax code to allow for the establishment of public charities focused specifically on agricultural research, called agriculture research organizations, or AROs.

Modeled after similarly-structured medical research organizations (MROs), AROs would be required to be engaged in research with a land-grant university or other college of agriculture.

There would be no tax differences between AROs and regular charitable organizations, which would allow donors – individuals or families – to commit funds to agricultural research with tax advantages.

Supporters of the bills believe their provisions could draw significant new funds to important work that is receiving fewer and fewer public dollars.

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, farm productivity has risen 158 percent since 1948, though agricultural research funding has become stagnant and has fallen far behind other federal agencies since the 1970s.

Private analysis done as the bill was being drafted showed the ARO concept would cost around $12 million over 10 years – practically nothing in federal budget terms.

NAWG strongly supports the proposed legislation as one effort to attract needed research funds to programs around the country, and NAWG will continue to encourage quick action on the bill.

In other research-related news, NAWG Director of Government Affairs for Research and Technology Jane DeMarchi traveled to Paris, France, this week to participate in the first meeting of the International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement.

The objective of this new effort is to coordinate major research efforts around the globe aimed at wheat improvement. It is being led by the French national research organization INRA, which organized in the meeting.

DeMarchi joined representatives from wheat research organizations from around the globe, CropLife International and a number of private companies. Dr. Kay Simmons, USDA-Agricultural Research Service deputy administrator for crop production and protection and a long-time wheat worker, is the U.S. government’s representative at the meeting.

Other U.S. participants include Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky, co-lead of the wheat and barley T-CAP grant; Dr. Mark Sorrells of Cornell University; and Kellye Eversole, executive director of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium.

DeMarchi will hold additional meetings with local and U.S. embassy stakeholders before returning to the States on Sunday.