A high-level report on agriculture research funding was issued last week by the White House Office of Science and Technology, underscoring the importance of farming to the domestic economy and the global population.
The President’s Council on Advisors on Science and Technology issued the report, which focused on the need for agricultural preparedness and the existing U.S. research infrastructure.
Noting the emerging and evolving threats to agriculture production, the paper makes the case for additional and rebalanced funding for research programs dedicated to agriculture. It also calls for an additional $700 million in annual funding for agriculture research, which a report co-chair said is justified because agriculture research funding has been flat for decades.
The report prioritizes the top seven challenges facing agriculture. Managing new pests, pathogens and invasive plants is at the top of that list, and the paper singles out Ug99 wheat stem rust as an example of an evolving and potentially devastating new pest.
To capture the maximum “innovation potential” from government funding for ag research, the report urges a rebalancing of how that research is funded to focus more on competitive grants and deemphasize research that overlaps with that done in private industry.
However, without additional resources, moving away from the current balance of funding at USDA could prove risky for crops like wheat that do not benefit from the levels of private research funding devoted to corn and soybeans.
Plant research takes long-term, committed funding and special expertise, and much of the innovation available to farmers from wheat research still comes from the public system.
Despite additional private money into the crop in recent years, wheat research being conducted by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is still fundamental to wheat’s viability as a U.S. crop and food source for consumers around the world.
The full PCAST report and a webcast of the report's release event are available by clicking here.