Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ag research pays off!

People forget that science isn't just for fun - it's an investment, and it's supposed to pay dividends.

I heard a neat statistic today: investment in agricultural research has a 45% rate of return! This is a phenomenal return on our collective investment. It's not that surprising when you think about it - agriculture is a massive part of the U.S. economy, and has been chronically underfunded for decades.

There are tons of opportunities to not only improve the environmental and economic sustainability of this sector, but also generate whole new markets.


  1. Er ... you wouldn't care to share the source of that statistic, would you? There are so many estimates of the ROI for agricultural R&D that make so many different assumptions, it's nice to know the basis for the claims.

  2. Oops! That was very sloppy of me. Thanks for calling me on it. I actually heard it the other day in the presentation of one of the USDA's big mucky mucks. She didn't cite it herself, but I'll see if I can track it down.

  3. I would expect the ROI has gone down as ag R&D investment is being "diverted" from increasing productivity to reducing negative environmental impact.

    But what if the environmental value of this would be expressed in monetary terms and included in the ROI?

  4. A quick google search turned up this ERS report that sounds similar to what the USDA person was talking about. I don't have time to read it now, but here it is.


  5. Jacob,

    That's a good point, though I don't have the impression that many U.S. research dollars have been diverted into studies of sustainability.

    There's a fair amount of research into organic and biofuel production methods (which btw aren't necessarily sustainable), but both increase the monetary value of crops, and might register as economic ROI anyway.

  6. Thanks MAT. I'll take a look.

  7. TO Jeremy and MAT K.
    Some interesting points in your comment. This link; http://www.farmfoundation.org/news/articlefiles/1705-Fuglie.pdf - to a slide deck quotes 45% ROI, in slide 8, for USA only.

    best regards - richard h [new to this site]
    [not associated to the ppt author or institute]



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