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USDA, NASA sign agreement to improve research

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Partnership to explore research gaps important to agriculture that could be addressed through innovative Earth observation systems, technologies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening their longstanding partnership on space-based assets benefitting life on Earth.

The agreement brings together NASA’s experience with technology development and space-borne Earth science measurements and USDA’s scientific experience and knowledge of agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, and forests and working lands.

USDA and NASA will explore research gaps of importance to the agricultural community that could be addressed through innovative Earth observation systems and technologies developed over the next decade. The collaboration also will address recommendations made in the 2017 National Academies’ Earth Science Decadal Survey.

“As we’ve seen over the past 100 years, increasing innovation in agriculture is limitless,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This partnership between USDA and NASA will bring together the best research, science, and technology we have to offer to help produce more food to feed the growing world. We are continuing an already great collaborative effort to utilize space-based technologies across sectors and into agriculture.”

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, commented, “When we combine research on the International Space Station with the amazing capabilities that Earth observation provides, I believe that NASA, in partnership with USDA, could transform farming and bolster agricultural production in ways we can’t even imagine today. Microgravity research can unlock secrets in a wide variety of fields, and I’m particularly excited about our agency’s potential impact on next-generation agricultural techniques.”

The agreement also will leverage USDA’s connections with the agricultural community and the global marketplace.

The partnership outlined in the agreement will benefit a variety of Earth and space-based goals, including activities in support of NASA’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon and establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners. Plant-related research on the International Space Station, and other space or ground platforms, may lead to creative new ways to improve American and global agriculture, protect the environment, and contribute to better human health.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) applauded the agreement, saying the memorandum will help both agencies explore research gaps of importance to the agricultural community.

“Today, technology plays an ever-larger role in growing the food we eat, and this partnership between USDA and NASA will no doubt help to advance the goal we all share of feeding the world,” said AFBF president Zippy Duvall. “Many people don’t realize how applicable NASA’s technology is to agriculture and I applaud this commitment to breaking down walls and advancing innovation in agriculture. We look forward to working with both the USDA and NASA to inspire the next generation of agriculturalists.”

In addition to the research partnership, the agencies already collaborate on education and communication activities to inspire youth in America to pursue careers in STEM and agriculture through the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education.

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