Definitions and Related Resources

The detailed definition of agricultural R&D can be found in the USDA Manual of Classification for Agricultural and Forestry Research, Education, and Extension. Agricultural R&D is defined to include R&D on the plants and animals used in agricultural production (including crops, livestock, aquaculture, and forestry), the natural resources that are used or affected by agriculture production; and production systems and their support. Public agricultural research is also likely to include R&D on food and nonfood products; human nutrition, well-being, and food safety; families and community systems; economics, marketing and policy; and research administration.

Public sector agricultural R&D: Agricultural R&D performed by a public institution, whether at the federal or state level, including universities and other institutions of higher learning.

Private sector agricultural and food R&D: R&D performed by nonpublic institutions, generally private business firms, that is oriented toward agricultural production and/or food manufacturing. (Industry-funded research performed by public institutions is included under public sector R&D.)

  • Private agricultural input research: Research oriented toward improving goods and services used in agricultural production, especially research on crop improvement (crop breeding and genetic traits; crop protection chemicals and biologicals; crop nutrition and  fertilizers); animal and aquaculture improvement (animal breeding; animal health; animal feeds and nutrition) and farm mechanization and precision.
  • Private food research: Research in food manufacturing, include new product development and improved manufacturing processes, storage and packaging.

Agricultural research price index: A price index that accounts for inflation in the cost of scientific labor, laboratory materials and equipment, land and other resources used in agricultural research. The cost of conducting research has generally risen faster than the economy-wide rate of price inflation.

Related Resources and Cited References

  • Agricultural Research Investment and Policy Reform in High-Income Countries (ERS Economic Research Report 249, May 2018) reviews long-term trends in public agricultural R&D spending by high-income countries and examines how these investments have contributed to economic growth. It also assesses some important R&D policy reforms that these countries have undertaken and draws lessons for the United States.
  • Innovation, Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability in the United States (OECD Food and Agricultural Policy Review, November 2016) places the U.S. agricultural innovation system within the larger agricultural system, outlines the policies affecting the performance of both agriculture and agricultural research, and updates information on trends in the U.S. agricultural innovation system.
  • Alston, J.M, M. A. Andersen, J. S. James, and P.G. Pardey. 2010. Persistence Pays: U.S. Agricultural Productivity Growth and the Benefits from Public R&D Springer: New York.
  • Fuglie, Keith. 2016. "The Growing Role of the Private Sector in Agricultural Research and Development World-wide," Global Food Security 10: 29-38.
  • Pardey, Philip G., Barbara Craig, and Michelle L. Hallaway. 1989. "U.S. Agricultural Research Deflators: 1890-1985," Research Policy 18(5): 289-296.