The Public Imperative for Investment in Agricultural R&D
Public investment in agricultural research in the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in unprecedented worldwide production of a few staple crops and the improvement of dozens more. However, agricultural producers around the world are facing new challenges as global climate changes become increasingly unpredictable. Our new policy brief, New Solutions for a Changing Climate, authored by Dr. Molly Jahn, argues that now is the time for a revitalization of public investment in agricultural research, American food systems, and international agricultural development that focuses on the challenges of the future. This week’s edition of GFFT will deep dive into the challenges facing our food system, and how agricultural R&D can help farmers and consumers around the world thrive.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Although the United States Department of Agriculture is a powerhouse of research, many government entities perform research and development that is relevant to agriculture, nutrition, and food security.
Areas for Investment: The policy brief includes areas for further research, born out of numerous consultations with government agencies and non-profits. One of these areas is improving soil health, critical but until recently overlooked. At the AGRF 2020 Virtual Summit, the Chicago Council is cohosting a pre-session on September 7 with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Colorado State University System on building a soils initiative for the African continent. A Council issue brief by David Nielson spurred the panel, which will feature experts from IFPRI, USAID, RUFORUM, Colorado State University, ASARECA, CRS, and the University of Stellenbosch.
UPCOMING COUNCIL EVENTS
A Soils Initiative for Africa
Date: September 7
Time: 10 a.m. CDT
VIRTUAL: Private Sector Responsibility on Race, Equity, and Inclusion- Part 1
Date: September 15
Time: 8 a.m. CDT
LIVE STREAM: How Korea Transformed the Cold War
Date: September 16
Time: 2 p.m. CDT
Did you miss one of our previous livestreams? Don't worry! They are all available on our website to watch at any time.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES
Farmers on the Front Lines: Farmers around the world worry about the long-term viability of their operations. As climate pressures and agricultural debt grow, farmer mental health should be a top concern for policy makers and researchers alike. For historically and presently marginalized farmers who face lower access to inputs, credit, and government support, this concern is particularly important. A resilient food system must include resilient farmers.
Funding Ag R&D at Universities: US universities conduct important agricultural research, often with federal funding. Yet USDA grants are still limited to cover no more than 30 percent of a project’s indirect costs such as salary, rent, and other routine costs of performing advanced research—much lower than grants from other agencies. This puts universities on the hook for costs that would otherwise be covered and has left them operating agricultural research at a loss.
Ensuring Public Data: New Solutions for a Changing Climate recommends that the USDA continue to commit to mandated standards for the archiving and curation of federally funded research data and mobilize its operational data for research. Ensuring that the data from federally funded research is public allows for greater transparency in research and fosters further innovation.
Global Weirding: We now know with high scientific confidence that food security is currently affected by climate change. The ten hottest years on record have occurred since 2005, stressing crops, humans, and livestock alike. Drought and flooding have devastated regions from the central US to eastern Africa, and weather around the world is becoming more unpredictable. Public agricultural R&D is uniquely positioned to address these tragedies of the commons.
More than Yields: Global yields of top crops such as soy and corn have skyrocketed over the last century. Yet as our understanding of nutrition grows, it has become more clear that we need to focus on the quality as well as the quantity of our crops. Research must dive deep into the agriculture-health-nutrition nexus, and how climate plays a role in not only feeding but nourishing the planet.
Beyond the USDA: In addition to the Department of Agriculture, over ten agencies research issues relevant to agriculture and food security. We offer policy recommendations to help coordinate and strengthen the work already being done. For example, increased communication between the USDA and the Department of State’s Office of Agricultural Policy (AGP) about new innovations would allow the AGP to focus in on building capacity and enabling trade with priority countries.
Collaboration is Key: The US relies on global partners to research for a food secure future. The Feed the Future Innovation Labs, based at US land-grant universities, work with local partners such as CORAF, the West African association of national agricultural research systems, on food security projects. CGIAR centers are also key partners for international agricultural research.
TRADE & COMMODITIES
Ag R&D Benefits Everyone: When innovations help save farmers money, they are better able to invest in their operations. This strengthens food systems, increases trade, and provides stability for consumers.
OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS
The Root of It: Rejuvenating the Ag Ecosystem
Date: September 17, 24 & October 1
Time: 2 pm CDT
Please share any tips or thoughts on what we can do better here.