April 19, 2018
A new effort to boost federal investment in agricultural research, FedByScience, bringing together 16 public and private universities, was launched in Washington, D.C. The initiative, timed with the markup of the 2018 House farm bill, focuses on demonstrating to policy-makers and the public the many ways U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded universities and researchers are creating a safer, healthier and more productive food system.
FedByScience launched April 18 with two briefings for Senate and House staff. The effort tells stories of how scientific discoveries and innovations have improved the way food is produced and distributed.
“Access to safe, nutritious food and a healthy environment is a fundamental human right. The need for healthy food will only grow as we look to the future. There is no issue of greater importance for our experts in the agricultural and food sciences and few more deserving of federal support,” said Dr. Kathryn Boor, FedByScience co-chair and The Ronald P. Lynch dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.
“U.S. farmers are confronted by turbulent commodity markets, extreme weather and an uneven economy,” said FedByScience co-chair and University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Dr. Ronnie Green. “A stronger investment in agricultural research can provide the science and innovation that farmers need to navigate these obstacles. Universities are now joining together to ensure that our stories about the value of food and agricultural research are heard.”
The agriculture and food production industries are facing considerable challenges today. For instance, Florida’s orange growers have been decimated by citrus greening disease, which has shrunk production every year for the past five years. A recent report from the National Academies concluded that, in the past 13 years, citrus greening has gone from a brand new disease to a chronic, long-term burden spread throughout Florida. As a result, Brazil has gained an increasingly larger share of the market, while U.S. farmers still have no answer for the bacteria that causes the disease.
Such challenges can only be addressed through additional research, yet the U.S. agricultural research budget has declined in real dollars since 2003. The U.S. has been second to China in total public agricultural research funding since 2008. In 2013, China’s spending on public agricultural research and development became nearly double that of the U.S.
“As researchers, we consider it our jobs to provide real-world solutions, but solid science and training the next generation of problem-solvers requires additional investment into our nation’s future,” said Dr. Lisa Schulte Moore of Iowa State University, whose water quality research in the Midwest is featured on the new initiative’s website.
Schulte Moore and her colleagues, supported by USDA grants and other funding sources, examined a set of problems confronting corn and soybean farmers — soil and nutrient retention, especially during rainstorms — and engineered an improbable solution: interspersing strips of native prairie vegetation throughout the crop rows. Her team estimated that the prairie strip solution could be used on 9.6 million acres of cropland in Iowa and a large portion of the 170 million acres under similar management in the U.S.
“There is so much that federally funded food and agriculture research has accomplished, but these stories need a broader audience,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR (Supporters of Agricultural Research) Foundation, which organizes FedByScience. “We are delighted to collaborate with our university partners to make this initiative a reality.”
Participating universities include: Colorado State University, Cornell University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, University of California-Davis, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
To view additional stories, visit http://fedbyscience.org.
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