Agricultural Research:

Information on Research System and USDA's Priority Setting

RCED-96-92: Published: Mar 28, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 11, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided an overview of the U.S. agricultural research, education, and extension system, focusing on: (1) how well certain agricultural research users believe the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and land grant universities are meeting users' research needs and disseminating their research results; and (2) USDA approaches to setting research priorities.

GAO found that: (1) the U.S. agricultural research, education, and extension system is diverse and decentralized and has both governmental and private components; (2) USDA is a key player in that it conducts in-house research and funds in partnership with states activities at 74 land-grant universities and other institutions; (3) the private sector also conducts and funds research, usually for proprietary purposes; (4) in fiscal year (FY) 1992, agricultural research expenditures totaled about $6.3 billion with the private sector contributing 60 percent, the federal government 25 percent, and states 15 percent; (5) in FY 1994, the federal government spent $419 million on extension activities while states and counties spent almost $1 billion; (6) most agricultural research users believe that USDA and land grant universities' research and information dissemination is effective in meeting their needs, but many also believe that the research's level of public funding and dissemination are inadequate; (7) users, USDA, and universities have formed partnerships and collaborative efforts to stretch limited research resources; (8) USDA lacks a departmentwide research agenda, adequate priority-setting and accountability processes, adequate information systems, and the ability to shift resources among priorities to plan and implement research priorities; and (9) USDA is developing actions to address these problems, but it is too soon to determine their effectiveness.

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