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50% of the 824 USDA-backed studies unrelated to sustainable agriculture

Staff writer |
A study Investing in the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture quantified the amount of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dollars funding sustainable agriculture research and development through its Research, Extension & Economics (REE) Program.

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The study was conducted by Marcia DeLonge of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Albie Miles of the University of Hawaii, and Liz Carlisle of the University of California at Berkeley, was recently published in journal Environmental Science & Policy.

It identified how many USDA-backed projects dealt with sustainable agriculture, determined which specific aspects of sustainable agriculture they dealt with, and then analyzed the extent to which they were funded.

The study found that, in 2014, there was a total of 824 research studies supported by the USDA’s Research, Extension & Economics (REE) Program, the federal unit most likely to fund projects directed at improving the environmental and public health performance of the United States food system.

DeLonge, Miles, and Carlisle made particular note that the research studies included in their analysis are related to, but not necessarily focused on, sustainability.

Even when taking this conservative approach, the study found that over 50 percent of the 824 USDA-backed studies didn’t include any components relating to sustainable agriculture, and were therefore placed in “unrelated” categories.

Of the $294 million REE dollars going to fund environmental and agricultural research, 52 percent could be considered related to sustainable agriculture at some level.

However, the study reports that a much smaller portion of the funding was directed at research projects that reflected agroecological systems as a whole.

The study found that only 10 percent of all analyzed funds were allocated toward these types of projects.