Thirteen prominent research institutions in the United States have joined the SoAR Foundation in calling for a surge in federal support of food and agricultural science.
Retaking the Field, the report released by this coalition, highlights recent scientific innovations and illustrates how U.S. agricultural production is losing ground to China and other global competitors.
“Researchers are discovering incredible breakthroughs, helping farmers produce more food using fewer resources, and keeping our meals safe and nutritious,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation. “However, the science behind agriculture and food production is starved of federal support at a time of unprecedented challenges. A new surge in public funding is essential if our agricultural system is going to meet the needs of American families in an increasingly competitive global market.”
Retaking the Field looks at the importance of agriculture and its related industries to the U.S. economy. According to USDA, this sector was responsible for nearly one in 10 jobs in 2014 and contributed $835 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. Even though every public dollar invested in agricultural research provides $20 in economic returns, the federal budget for agricultural research has remained flat for decades. Today, the United States trails China in both agricultural production and public research funding.
“Every year, the director of national intelligence testifies before Congress that our national security is threatened by hunger in unstable regions,” said Grumbly. “As the number of people on our planet continues to grow, we must produce more food. This cannot be done with yesterday’s science. We need a larger infusion of cutting-edge technologies.”
The Retaking the Field report profiles 13 groundbreaking science teams at premier public and private universities across the United States, including work at N.C. State by Rodolphe Barrangou, Ph. D., on using CRISPR gene editing technology to trace the precise routes that foodborne pathogens take from production facilities to consumers. He is also applying the CRISPR process to eliminate virulent strains of E. coli.
Steven Lommel, N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences associate dean and director for the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, said Retaking the Field “is designed to make our congressional delegates and decision makers aware of the value of ag research.”
“It is imperative that we continue funding ag research, because although we currently have a plentiful food source, population and environmental conditions will affect that in the future,” Lommel said.