NSAC's Blog

Support Growing for Agricultural Research Reform and Investment

June 26, 2015

Several reports from the past few weeks all point to a growing convergence around promoting reform and increased funding for public sector food and agricultural research.

Below is a quick review of the recent reports. In a follow-up blog next week, we will highlight what the emerging agricultural appropriations bills in Congress do and do not do to advance the agricultural research agenda.

AGree’sResearch & Innovation: Strengthening Agricultural Research” Recommendations

 AGree — a think tank whose co-chairs include former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and former Deputy Secretaries of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and Jim Moseley — released a report and set of recommendations on agricultural research on June 24.

The report focuses on the mechanisms and funding of federal agricultural research more so than the substance. The paper builds upon a set of meetings and five commissioned papers, including one co-authored by NSAC staff.

In releasing the report, the AGree co-chairs stressed that Congress has not seriously reviewed the structure of farm and food research and funding in decades and suggested a serious conversation about those issues now, in advance of the 2018 Farm Bill.

In addition to increased congressional oversight, other recommendations made by AGree include:

  • Making data and findings from publicly funded research more accessible;
  • Increasing the integration between research, education, and extension;
  • Reviewing research priorities via transparent processes involving stakeholders and end users;
  • Re-integrating independent technology assessment into the research priority review process;
  • Targeting public research to areas unlikely to be addressed by private industry;
  • Increasing competitive grant funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Sustainable Agriculture and Education Program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, Specialty Crop Research Initiative, and Crop Protection and Pest Management Grants Program; and
  • Making competitive grant funding available to researchers outside of the land grant college and university system and eliminate the 2014 Farm Bill’s matching grant requirement for non-land grant institutions and organizations.

NSAC issued a press release in response to the AGree paper.

Riley Foundation’s “Pursuing a Unifying Message: A University Perspective”

In conjunction with the annual Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation’s annual lecture on agricultural research on June 16, the Foundation released the proceedings of one day meeting on April 6 of university leaders and representatives of the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, and the Non-land-grant Agriculture and Renewable Resources Universities.

The meeting was a follow up to the Riley Foundation release in November 2014 of Pursuing a Unifying Message: Elevating Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Research as a National Priority. That paper framed the current situation as a pivotal moment for agricultural research, with the opportunity for dramatically ramping up public investment to benefit society and the public good. NSAC contributed to the document.

Themes from the April university meeting included a recognition of the current state of anemic public funding for agricultural research, a call for increasing funding across the entire, inclusive portfolio of types of funding, and framing increasing public investment as fueling a solution supply chain to pressing societal problems including climate, health, food security, and sustainability.

Chicago Council’s Healthy Food for a Healthy World Report

Back on April 16, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food to Improve Global Nutrition, a set of recommendations endorsed by a group of business, scientific and civil society leaders chaired by former Congressmen Doug Bereuter (president emeritus of The Asia Foundation) and Dan Glickman (former USDA Secretary).

The recommendations in the report include:

  • Increasing funding for nutrition research to expand access to nutrient-rich foods and address malnutrition;
  • Using US research facilities and universities to train the next generation of food, agriculture and nutrition leaders in the US and abroad;
  • Joining government and industry initiatives together to support technologies to reduce food waste and enhance food safety; and
  • Convening a bipartisan commission to address tackling nutrition challenges globally.

USDA’s Annual Technology Transfer Report

On Wednesday, June 24, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the release of the 2014 Annual Report on Technology Transfer which details research innovations and discoveries that have resulted in inventions and patents that have the potential to benefit the American public.

Technology transfer was given additional focus in 2011 when the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum titled, “Accelerating Technology Transfer and Commercialization of Federal Research in Support of High-Growth Businesses.” The USDA responded to this memorandum by identifying a number of initiatives to advance technology transfer and commercialization and increase USDA Science and Technology agency collaboration.

The science-based developments described in the 2014 Annual Report include improved products, processes, technologies, and services that may benefit U.S. agriculture and the public at large. During Fiscal Year 2014, USDA filed 119 patent applications and disclosed another 117 inventions. The following discoveries were highlighted by USDA:

  • Processes to eliminate up to 98-percent of the allergens from peanuts without compromising their flavor;
  • A portable method for identifying harmful bacteria in food that could improve the response to foodborne illness outbreaks;
  • A new method for mosquito control that specifically silences genes in the mosquito so it does not pose a danger to other insects, including pollinators; and
  • A soil nitrogen test that quickly and inexpensively determines the total plant-available amount of nitrogen in the soil, which environmentally and economically beneficial.


Categories: Research, Education & Extension

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