This data product reports on public and private expenditures for agricultural and food research and development (R&D) in the United States. Public agricultural R&D spending is reported annually from 1970 to 2019. Private food industry R&D is also reported for 1970-2019. R&D spending by private agricultural input industries is reported for 1970-2014. R&D expenditures are shown in current dollars and in constant dollars (adjusted for inflation in the cost of research). Expenditures are adjusted for price inflation using the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI) from the National Institutes of Health.

Public R&D expenditures are based on data from two sources:

  • Research expenditures by State land grant universities and other cooperating institutions are from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Research, Education, and Economics Information system (REEIS) data portal and Current Research Inventory System (CRIS) annual funding summaries for 1970-2001. NIFA extramural grants to the private sector through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program are not included in public agricultural research expenditures.

USDA intramural research expenditure is the total research outlays reported by NSF for all USDA agencies except NIFA outlays and non-NIFA-administered research grants and cooperative agreements. Expenditures for non-NIFA-administered extramural research grants and cooperative agreements are from the REEIS and CRIS annual funding summaries.

An adjustment is made for REEIS-reported research expenditures by State land grant universities and other cooperating institutions for 2006, 2007, and 2008. For these years, NIH grants to the University of Minnesota veterinary school are subtracted from the State total. These grants were for general health sciences research and are erroneously reported as agricultural research in CRIS and REEIS (Alston et al. 2010, p. 231-32). The amounts subtracted from the REEIS totals for these years are $275.17 million, $301.65 million, and $299.12 million for 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively.

Private funding estimates are constructed by ERS, based on the methodology presented in the ERS report:

Revised and extended estimates are also reported in:

  • Fuglie, Keith. 2016. "The Growing Role of the Private Sector in Agricultural Research and Development World-wide," Global Food Security 10: 29-38.

Research expenditures are estimated for the food, beverage, and tobacco manufacturing industry and seven agricultural input industries. The agricultural input industries include: 1) crop breeding and genetic improvement; 2) crop protection chemicals; 3) synthetic fertilizers; 4) farm machinery; 5) animal health; 6) animal breeding; and 7) animal nutrition. Private agricultural input industries research is then aggregated into total private agricultural R&D, and further aggregated with food industry R&D into total private agricultural and food R&D.

The NSF Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) Survey provides an estimate of total R&D spending by firms in the food (including beverages and tobacco) industry. Most food industry R&D is for new product development and processing innovations, but a portion is also directed toward agriculture, primarily in animal breeding and nutrition. The ERS estimate of total private agricultural and food R&D nets out this overlap. Food industry R&D has been updated to cover 1970-2019.

NSF BERD Survey data on private R&D spending may not represent all the R&D investment by agricultural input industries. NSF provides estimates of R&D by the agricultural chemical and farm machinery industries, but private research on animal health is included in research expenditures by the pharmaceutical industry, which is mainly for human health. Also, the NSF BERD Survey does not include firms whose primary revenues are from agricultural sales, so may exclude many seed companies. Private R&D on animal breeding and nutrition is primarily conducted by food industry firms and included in the BERD total for the food and kindred products industry.

To construct a consistent estimate of R&D expenditures by private agricultural input industries, ERS constructed a database of annual agricultural R&D spending by large and medium-sized firms in each input industry. This firm-by-firm database was built from company financial statements, reports from industry associations and consulting services, and personal interviews with company and industry representatives. For firms with R&D spending in multiple industries, only R&D spending in agricultural input industries are included. For animal health R&D, for example, only a firm’s R&D on food animals is included – R&D spending on humans and companion animals is excluded from the ERS estimate. Private R&D in the crop genetic improvement and farm machinery industries also include an estimate of R&D spending by small-sized firms, based on a fixed percentage of industry sales by these firms. For input industries that do not conduct much R&D, namely, bulk fertilizers and animal feeds, few firms in these industries report R&D expenditures. For these industries, the ERS estimate of R&D spending is estimated as a constant percentage of industry sales, where the percentages are determined from past surveys or industry norms.

Private agricultural input R&D expenditures cover the period 1970-2014. Due to changes in input industry structures and emergence of new industries and technologies, comprehensive estimates beyond 2014 are not yet possible. ERS is working to update these estimates in the future.

Constant dollar research expenditures are adjusted for inflation in the cost of research inputs using the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI) from the National Institutes of Health (February 2022 update). Previous ERS agricultural R&D expenditure series used an agriculture-specific R&D price index developed by Pardey et al. (1989). This series is almost identical to the BRDPI.