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Release: NSAC Comments on AGree’s Agricultural Research Recommendations

June 24, 2015


Washington, DC, June 24, 2015 — Today, AGree released a new position paper on agricultural research.  Entitled Research and Innovation: Strengthening Agricultural Research, the paper is available online at www.foodandagpolicy.org.

Below are comments on the research recommendations by Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and a newly appointed AGree Advisor.

It is encouraging to have AGree joining in with other ongoing collaborations as part of an emerging campaign to re-invigorate public investment in food and agricultural research.  To solve pressing 21st century problems, not only must the public investment in food and agricultural research and extension increase greatly, but we also urgently need to re-focus those enhanced investments in order to advance sustainability, health, economic opportunity, and other widely-supported public goods.

The AGree paper released today contributes important ideas to that effort, including the insight that “it would be shortsighted to advocate for increased
 funding without aggressively pursuing both short- and long-term changes in the U.S. research and innovation system” and that we “must align public food and agricultural research priorities with broadly-supported public policy objectives” and “ensure that they address issues relevant to the public good…”

While research and extension is fundamental to and undergirds all the other farm and food issues, it often at best plays second fiddle in federal farm policy deliberations.  Yet, the research agenda we set today in a very real way helps determine the food and agriculture system we will have a generation from now.  It is critical, therefore, that as we find ways to increase public investment, we also align research and development with our values.

The AGree paper has many good recommendations that could help with that realignment task, but one stands out in my view.  The fifth recommendation states “Review and reset publicly-funded research priorities periodically, employing a transparent process with input from multiple stakeholders and end-users to ensure that funds are directed toward the most relevant and high-impact areas.”

The paper goes on to recommend the creation of a new mechanism to improve our capacity to examine the costs and benefits of new technologies on social, economic, and environmental systems through independent science and technology assessment, similar to the former USDA Agricultural Science and Technology Review Board.  NSAC strongly concurs with this recommendation.  It is a much needed and long overdue reform.

Even with the best research agenda possible, we cannot get to where we need to be to ensure a sustainable farm and food future without a very substantial boost in funding.  A continuation of stagnant public food and agriculture research funding will be our doom, decreasing our competitiveness and foreclosing the innovations we need to have a chance for a sustainable future.

Here again, the AGree recommendations have much to offer.  For instance, the paper endorses large increases for competitive grant funding through existing programs including Agriculture
 and Food Research Initiative, Specialty Crop Research Initiative, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension, Organic Agriculture Research, Education, and Extension Initiative, and Crop Protection and Pest Management Competitive Grants Program.

That is a position NSAC endorses.  We need all boats to rise – each of our federal competitive grants programs has an important role to play and each deserves a plan and strategy for major advances in funding.

While all types of agricultural research are underfunded to one degree or another, we note in particular the chronic and extreme underfunding of sustainable and organic agricultural research and of multi-disciplinary agro-ecosystem studies.  We hope AGree will work with other collaborators to focus attention on targeting these underfunded areas of research that are critical to our long term food security and health and wellbeing.

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AGree connects and challenges leaders from diverse communities to build consensus, catalyze action, and elevate food and agriculture as a national priority.  Through collaboration and frank discussion, AGree has established a venue whereby a broad coalition of interests have built trust, found common ground, and developed shared strategies for achieving transformative change.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities.

 


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