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Marco Rubio, Scott Franklin Want USDA to Offer More Research Funds for Land-Grant Universities

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Fla., are championing a proposal for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to “make priority research grants available for land-grant universities to research and develop agricultural applications of artificial intelligence, advanced mechanized harvester technologies, invasive species control, and aquaculture.”

Last week, Rubio introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate with Georgia Democrats U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock co-sponsoring it. Franklin brought out the U.S. House version last month with seven co-sponsors, including U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., Neal Dunn, R-Fla., Laurel Lee, R-Fla., Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., Michael Waltz, R-Fla., and Daniel Webster, R-Fla.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, collaborates with land-grant colleges and universities to address critical issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and the community,” Rubio’s office noted.

“Florida’s land-grant universities are constantly innovating to address critical issues pertaining to agriculture and natural resource management in Florida. The Land Grant Research Prioritization Act will ensure that priority research grants are available to support cutting-edge research topics important to Florida to face these challenges,” said Rubio.

“Georgia growers have told me clearly: precision agriculture technology is key to Georgia’s agricultural future. I’m pleased to partner with Sen. Rubio to advance the research and deployment of technology that will help feed the nation and create wealth in our states,” said Ossoff.

“Farming is a tough job—which is why investing in agriculture research and precision agriculture technology is good for our producers, our economy, and our planet,” said Warnock. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Rubio to invest in Georgia’s land-grant universities to ensure they are equipped with the federal resources they need to remain on the cutting edge.”

“Labor shortages, inflation, supply chain disruption, invasive diseases, and extreme weather have created significant challenges for American agricultural producers. AI and other important research into mechanization, invasive species, and aquaculture are promising solutions to keep growers economically competitive. At a time when growers in Florida and around the country need support, our bipartisan Land Grant Research Prioritization Act is a timely fix to boost US-grown food production and keep growers on the cutting edge. I thank Congressman Bishop for joining me in this important effort,” said Franklin/

Agriculture and Natural Resources, UF/IFAS, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Farm Bureau, Florida A&M University, Georgia Pecan Growers Association, Vidalia Onion Business Council, and the Georgia Blueberry Commission are all backing the proposal.

“Authorization for USDA to fund research into agricultural applications for artificial intelligence is essential to the future of American farms. The land-grant universities engaged in first-rate science cannot deliver it at the speed necessary to keep us globally competitive without USDA support. Funding for AI-guided agricultural science will drive the innovation that keeps America globally competitive and not reliant upon other nations for its food supply,” said Dr. J. Scott Angle, the senior vice president of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UF/IFAS

“The Florida Strawberry Growers Association is thankful for Congressman Franklin’s foresight in promoting the sustainability of Florida’s specialty crop industries through his efforts in supporting applied artificial intelligence research in agriculture through his sponsorship of this bill,” said Kenneth Parker, the executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.

“The prioritization and acceleration of mechanization and automation is critical to the future of the specialty crop industry. Congressman Franklin continues to be a champion for agriculture, seeking solutions for the industry’s domestic workforce crisis and working to ensure the production of U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Mike Joyner, the president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.

Rubio’s bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. Franklin’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.

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  • Kevin Derby

    Originally from Jacksonville, Kevin Derby is a contributing writer for Florida Daily and covers politics across Florida.

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