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Agricultural Research Funding in the Public and Private Sectors

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Data for public and private funding of food and agricultural research and development cover the years 1970-2009 (public) and 1970-2007 (private). Data are available as nominal figures and adjusted for inflation.

Public funding is based on data from two sources:

  • State-level data are from USDA's Current Research Information Systems (CRIS). For the years 1970-1993, the data come from the "Inventory of Agricultural Research" publications. CRIS stopped publishing the Inventory and moved to a web-based reporting system that can be found on the CRIS home page. Those data are used for 1993-2009.

Private funding estimates are constructed by ERS, based on the methodology presented in the ERS report, Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide, ERR-130, December 2011. This report built on earlier work reported in Private-Sector Agricultural Research Expenditures in the United States, 1960-92 (Staff Paper AGES9525). Research expenditures are estimated for eight agricultural industries and then aggregated. These industries include seven agricultural input industries: 1) crop genetic improvement; 2) crop protection chemicals; 3) synthetic fertilizers; 4) farm machinery; 5) animal health; 6) animal genetic improvement; and 7) animal nutrition; and the agricultural output industry, 8) food and kindred products.

We used a number of approaches to construct estimates of private R&D spending by sector. For research-intensive agricultural input industries, we built a database of agriculturally related research spending firm by firm over time, for all firms in the sector (including "legacy" firms, or firms that exited the industry during the period of study) that have or have had significant R&D expenditures. For large conglomerates, for which agriculture may be only one business segment, we separated agriculturally related R&D spending from R&D spending on nonagricultural business segments. We gathered this information by canvassing a broad set of material, including company annual reports and websites, reports by industry associations and consulting services, and personal interviews with company representatives.

For agricultural input industries in which firms do not often report their research spending, we estimated agricultural R&D for the industry by taking a percentage of total agricultural input sales, with the percentages (or research intensities) derived from observations on R&D spending from a subset of firms and from previous surveys of the industry. For the food manufacturing industry, we relied on the U.S. country-level estimate produced by the Organisation for Co-operation and Development.

The R&D deflator (to convert current dollars to real) is based on methodology described in Pardey et al. ( U.S. Agricultural Research Deflators: 1890-1985, University of Minnesota Department of Applied Economics Staff Paper P87-25, 1987). which provides weights for three components: researcher salaries, State and local government consumption expenditures, and construction costs. The deflator has been updated using information from the American Association of University Professors ( The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, various years) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (National Economic Accounts, Table 3.9.4: Price Indexes for Government Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment).

Last updated: Thursday, July 05, 2012

For more information contact: Kelly Day-Rubenstein and Paul Heisey

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