New ag research board launched

Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research will leverage public and private resources to advance agricultural research.

The first step in getting the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research up and running is complete with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s appointment of its 15-member board of directors on July 23. The new foundation will leverage public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to boosting America's agricultural economy.

Authorized by Congress as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the foundation will operate as a non-profit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress also provided $200 million for the foundation which must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects.

"Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research creates $20 in economic activity," said Vilsack. "Investments in innovation made over the past several decades have developed new products and new procedures that have been critical to the continued growth of American agriculture. We must continue to make strategic investments in research and technology if we are to remain leaders in the global economy."

The research funded by the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research will address issues including plant and animal health; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources, and environment; agricultural and food security; and agriculture systems and technology.

“This new Research Foundation is one of the most important victories in the Farm Bill,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.). “We designed this foundation to leverage public-private dollars to continue making America the most productive and efficient agricultural producer in the world. America sets the gold standard for safe, abundant food production across the globe, and that’s largely because of a commitment to research and decades of investment in agricultural innovation and cutting edge practices.”

National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre said he was delighted to see the foundation up and running. "The new Foundation for Food and Ag Research promises to be an important tool for greater innovation in agriculture, especially as we face the challenge of feeding a growing population,” he said.

Members named

The foundation's board of directors was chosen to represent the diverse sectors of agriculture. Seven of these board members were selected by the unanimous vote of the board's five ex-officio members from lists of candidates provided by industry, while eight representatives were unanimously elected from a list of candidates provided by the National Academy of Sciences. Congress mandated that the ex-officio members choose the initial 15 board members from among the lists provided by these two groups. However, new board members now have the option of adding additional members if they so choose. Vilsack said he hoped the board would exercise its prerogative to add more members to expand the board's diversity.

In announcing the 15-member FFAR board, Vilsack remarked, "Public-private partnerships are vital to the agricultural research community, and this is reflected in the membership of the foundation's board of directors."

The 15 voting members are:

  • Dr. Kathryn Boor - the Ronald P. Lynch dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
  • Dr. Douglas Buhler - director of AgBioResearch and senior associate dean for Research for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University
  • Dr. Nancy Creamer - distinguished professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Community Based Food Systems, North Carolina State University
  • Dr. Deborah Delmer - professor emeritus of biology, University of California-Davis
  • The Honorable Dan Glickman - former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, current executive director of the Aspen Institute's Congressional Program
  • Dr. Robert Horsch - deputy director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Pamela Johnson - chairwoman, National Corn Growers Association
  • Dr. Mark E. Keenum - president, Mississippi State University
  • Dr. Michael Ladisch - director of the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering and Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University
  • Dr. Christopher Mallett - vice president of Research & Development, Cargill, Inc.
  • Dr. Pamela Matson - Chester Naramore dean of the School of Earth Sciences, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor of Environmental Studies and senior rellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University
  • Dr. Terry McElwain - associate director and professor, Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, and executive director, Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Washington State University
  • Dr. Stanley Prusiner - director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Professor of Neurology, University of California-San Francisco and 1997 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine
  • Dr. Yehia "Mo" Saif - professor emeritus, The Ohio State University
  • Dr. Barbara Schaal - dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

The five ex-officio board members, all of whom were designated by Congress, are Vilsack; Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA's Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and Chief Scientist; Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service; Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture; and Dr. France A. Córdova, dDirector of the National Science Foundation.

In a time of federal budgetary restraints, the new foundation is another innovative way to continue and expand investment in agricultural research, USDA said. FFAR will complement existing Federal and Federally-funded agricultural science research endeavors and accelerate solutions to the challenges American agriculture.

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