President Obama’s science advisory council calls for more investment in ag research

Photo by AGua.
Soybean photo by AGua.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report on Dec. 7 emphasizing the need for more investment agricultural research in the US in order to prepare for the multi-faceted affects climate change will have on food production.  The report highlights priorities in “the need to manage new pests, pathogens, and invasive plants; increase the efficiency of water use; reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture; adapt to a changing climate; and accommodate demands for bioenergy.”

The report found that investments in ag research has a ten-fold economic benefit.  However, the societal investment in this major economic sector needs to be rebalanced.  PCAST identified two major shortcomings.  First, the amount of federal research funding allotted to ag research is disproportionately small compared to the amount of funding for other agency’s scientific research funding.  Second, the research agenda for federally funded ag research inefficiently overlaps with privately funded ag research.  For example, over one-third of the USDA research budget focuses on commodity crops research.  PCAST suggests using federal ag research dollars on basic research developing tools for the benefit of society and long-term food production, which is not a motivating factor for private research.

Interestingly, PCAST suggests not only the USDA increase its investment in the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) but also the National Science Foundation (NSF) increase the proportion funding it awards to ag research.

Read the full report here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast_agriculture_20121207.pdf

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