While it may not be the first field thought of by many in science and technology policy, agriculture has been improving its capacity to conduct publicly funded research and to advocate for it. The National Institute for Food and Agriculture and the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research are relatively new, and there is an advocacy group to help support their efforts.
Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) is a coalition of university, industry and research groups founded in 2012. It has recently attracted new attention with the hiring of its first President and additions to its Board of Directors. The goals are aggressive, to boost funding for the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) from $202 million in 2009 to $450 million in the next fiscal year. While this is still a small portion of the $3 billion spent annually on agriculture research. AFRI supported research represents an expansion of agricultural research beyond the traditional institutions designated in land grant legislation back in the 19th century.
But SoAR may also represent the beginnings of an effort to build the advocacy community around agricultural research to resemble the structures that have helped federal biomedical research support grow to nearly ten times the size of agriculture research.