A new report from the Presidential Council on Science and Technology (PCAST) said that the federal government needs to launch a coordinated effort to boost American agriculture science by increasing agricultural research investments by $700 million per year and by rebalancing USDA’s research portfolio so that external funding is increased.

The “Report to the President on Agricultural Preparedness and Agriculture Research Enterprise” concluded that the U.S. is the undisputed world leader in agricultural production today, but must invest in more technology to maintain this position. The report prioritizes the top scientific challenges facing agriculture, including the need to manage new pathogens, reduce ag’s environmental footprint; adapt to a changing climate and accommodate demands for bioenergy while producing safe and nutritious food at home and abroad.   

PCAST recommended that Congress appropriate the previously authorized funding for USDA’s competitive grants program, aimed at researchers outside the government and noted that the majority of USDA’s search and development budget is directed internally (60 percent) while most other science based federal agencies devote less than 30 percent of their budgets intramurally. 

Earlier this year, AMI Foundation President James H. Hodges told the PCAST that additional funding for agriculture research was “absolutely critical.” In response to today’s announcement, Hodges said, “We are gratified that PCAST has recognized the essential nature of agriculture science and technology investments.  If we are to stay competitive and meet future challenges, we simply must follow through on PCAST’s recommendation to increase research funding.”

The American Meat Science Association also lauded the report, saying in a statement that the recommendations, “particularly surrounding increasing competitive research funding, are consistent with AMSA’s position that basic and applied science funding is a critical need for the future sustainability of the nation’s food supply. Further recommendations to fund agricultural research infrastructure investments, to create innovation institutes and to promote regulatory clarity would all clearly help in facing the 21st century challenges of feeding the nation.”

The AMSA urged rapid adoption and implementation of these recommendations.

Sources: American Meat Institute, AMSA