Bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the House and Senate would establish a legal structure for tax-exempt organizations that fund agricultural research.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Thune, R-S.D., are the principal Senate co-sponsors. They were joined by seven additional co-sponsors including, Sens. Bennet, D-Colo.; Blunt, R-Mo.; Brown, D-Ohio; Cochran, R-Miss.; Coons, Del.; Inhofe, R-Okla.; and Wyden, D-Ore.

The bill was authored and introduced in the House by Rep. Nunes, R-Calif., with 15 original co-sponsors, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas, R-Okla.

The legislation would authorize the establishment of public charities, called agriculture research organizations or AROs, specifically focused on agriculture research. The legislation uses similarly-structured medical research organizations as a model. AROs would be required to be associated with a land-grant university or other agriculture college. AROs would have the same status as other charitable organizations, which would allow donors – individuals or families – to contribute funds to agricultural research and receive tax advantages.

The legislation’s authors believe this could attract new funds to agriculture research to supplement dwindling federal financial support. According to various sources, agricultural productivity has risen dramatically but funding for agricultural research has fallen behind other federal agencies since the 1970s.