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Obama Call for Doubling of Agricultural Aid Could Boost U.S. Research

In London after the G-20 summit yesterday, President Barack Obama called for Congress to double U.S. agricultural aid to developing countries in 2010 to $1 billion. “To have the president take leadership on this is an important shift,” says M. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, many of which do research that improves agriculture abroad.

Some U.S. senators are already moving in this direction. This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill called S. 384 that would increase the authorized funding levels for U.S. foreign aid to $750 million in 2010, reaching $2.5 billion in 2014. Authorizations for university partnerships and international agricultural research centers would also rise.

Current aid of approximately $500 million includes not just agricultural assistance but also water and environmental improvements. McPherson estimates that roughly $100 million of agricultural aid, such as work in improving crop varieties, flows through universities.

Senator Richard Lugar (R–IN) is now looking to increase co-sponsors from four to 60 to move the bill along. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives soon.