Washington, D.C. -- Today (Dec. 7) the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a new report on Agricultural Preparedness and the Agriculture Research Enterprise. The report represents an important analysis of the public and private agricultural research structure and current levels of investment.
“We are pleased that PCAST focused on the unique challenges and goals of the agriculture research enterprise,” says Ellen Bergfeld, chief executive officer of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). “The PCAST report highlights just how critical agriculture research is to ensuring food and energy security in the U.S. and the world.”
Three members of ASA, CSSA, and SSSA participated in a working group of a PCAST subcommittee that made recommendations to the full PCAST: Tom Sinclair, adjunct professor with North Carolina State University; Sharon Clay, incoming ASA president and South Dakota State University plant science professor; and Molly Jahn, University of Wisconsin genetics and agronomy professor.
The report identifies emerging challenges that threaten America’s agricultural preparedness and proposes several recommendations. It concludes that the current agriculture research portfolio is not adequately prepared to deal with the emerging challenges facing our nation, such as food safety and sustainability.
“The sober analysis concludes that neither the national research structure nor funding levels are adequate to meet the increasing environmental and economic constraints and demands on crop production,” says Sinclair. “The report reaches the clear conclusion that leadership must come from Congress, the USDA, and land grant universities.”
The report recommends increasing federal support for agriculture research by $700 million a year; specifically PCAST recommends increasing National Science Foundation funding for basic research relevant to agriculture from $120 million to $250 million in fiscal year 2014, and raising the current level of funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to $500 million. AFRI is the USDA’s premier agricultural competitive grants program.
“ASA, CSSA and SSSA are strong advocates for increased federal investment in the research enterprise to maintain U.S. scientific leadership and address issues of increased production demands, food safety, health and nutrition, sustainability and global food security,” Bergfeld says.
The report also focuses on preparing the next generation of the agriculture science and technology workforce by expanding fellowships for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.
“Enhancing the agricultural workforce is a top priority for the Agronomy, Crop and Soil Science Societies and we applaud the PCAST for recognizing the importance of training the next generation workforce and proposing recommendations that strive to strengthen the agriculture S&T workforce,” says Clay.