Postharvest: Agricultural Research Funding Is Critical

Can support for agricultural research survive inside the beltway? This question was posed by Dr. Roger Beachy, director of the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at a recent colloquium at the University of California-Davis. It is well accepted that the investments made in agricultural research over the past 150 years have yielded tremendous returns.

Agriculture productivity in the U.S. is second to none. But can we continue to be the best and to meet the challenges of the 21st century without a continued and strong commitment to agricultural research and education?

According to Beachy, the challenges in the 21st century will be great, including food security, food safety, human nutrition and health, bioenergy, and climate change. The need for continued investments in agricultural research to drive innovative developments to meet these challenges is critical, and yet the budget for NIFA, and USDA in general, is insufficient. Why, despite the many successes resulting from investment in agricultural research programs, have we been unable to convince Congress to increase research funding? Dr. Beachy believes the problem is the lack of a uniform, harmonious message from stakeholders to Congress on the importance of agricultural research in general.

A Stronger Message

I agree that we need a stronger message to Congress and to the public about the many benefits of agricultural research. It is important to recognize that the majority of Congressional constituents live in urban areas and have little direct contact with agriculture. If we hope to elicit increased support for agricultural research, we need to speak to issues of concern to the urban population. Top issues might include 1) sustainable and organic food systems, 2) national security, and 3) human health.

The increasing interest in local foods, organic foods, and sustainable systems has served to increase awareness of agricultural systems for parts of the population. To successfully adopt these approaches requires a greater understanding of plant and animal biology and their interactions with the environment and hence, more research. In addition, strategies to reduce postharvest losses are essential to sustainable agricultural systems to prevent waste of resources expended during production.

Maintaining the viability of U.S. agriculture is a matter of national security, in my opinion. It is essential that the U.S. have the ability to feed its population from food produced within its borders. Research funding is essential to assure continued innovation that will maintain the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. Food security, particularly in developing nations, is strongly linked to peace and is a key to U.S. diplomacy. Enhancing the stability of nations around the world is in the interest of our own national security.

Finally, human health is an issue that affects every citizen. Skyrocketing rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes indicate that our lifestyle and eating habits in the U.S. are unsustainable. Consumers know they should eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer fatty foods. What are the barriers that prevent healthy diets? If we improve the flavor of our fruits and vegetables, will this encourage greater consumption? What about convenience? Would consumption increase if fruits and vegetables were more convenient to eat? The baby carrot and fresh cut salad stories would indicate the answer is “yes.”

By focusing our messaging about the reasons why the average U.S. citizen should care about funding for agricultural research, including improvements in agricultural sustainability and organic products, national security, and human health, perhaps we will be able to continue to advance U.S. agriculture and maintain its competitiveness for the next 150 years.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Citrus stew courtesy of Irma
Citrus
October 19, 2017
Disaster Relief: Ways Florida Growers Can Find Farm Aid
With billions of dollars lost to Irma, financial assistance will be crucial for many. Read More
Fruits
October 19, 2017
New Online Tool Helps Growers Determine Need for Groundwater Recharge
California Land Use Viewer can help growers determine if they can adopt groundwater recharge practices on their own operations. Read More
subirrigation implementation
Irrigation
October 19, 2017
Northeast Florida Farmers Stepping up to Save Water
Green light given to nine agricultural projects steeped in stewardship. Read More
Vegetables
October 18, 2017
The 2018 State of the Vegetable Industry Survey Is Now Open!
How has this year performed for you? Share how things have gone this year – and your expectations for 2018 – in our shorter, more focused survey. Read More
Citrus
October 18, 2017
How to Keep Track of Climate Change
Use cool tools to find out how your production methods may change in the future, how much your area is at risk, and how to limit your own impact on the climate. Read More
Vegetables
October 18, 2017
Stop Viewing Fellow Growers as the Enemy [Opinion]
Instead, growers should focus on issues that benefit everyone, from gaining a stronger voice when negotiating with retailers, to finding a way to share ideas and costs on precision agriculture tools. Read More
Citrus
October 17, 2017
USDA Issues Disaster Declaration for Hurricane-Stricken Florida Farmers
Operators in designated counties eligible for emergency assistance. Read More
Fruits
October 17, 2017
Hirst Named American Society of Horticultural Science Fellow
Honor was presented during society’s annual meeting. Read More
Crop Protection
October 17, 2017
EPA Takes Steps to Reduce Risk of Drift-Related Herbicide Injury
With reports of dicamba injuries in tomatoes, peaches, grapes, and other crops, the agency works to reduce the impact of spray drift on vulnerable crops. Read More
Fruits
October 16, 2017
New Broad-Spectrum Herbicide Released by Nufarm
Grapple herbicide works on pre- and post-emergent weeds in orchards and vineyards. Read More
Flooded peach and grape groves from Irma at UF/IFAS HAEC
Citrus
October 16, 2017
Wrath of Hurricane Irma’s Rainfall Measured by the Trillions
Report says storm dropped enough gallons of water on Florida’s St. Johns River Water Management District to swamp 6.7 million football fields. Read More
Checking hop cones at UF/IFAS MREC
Fruits
October 14, 2017
USDA Seeks Applications for Next Round of Specialty Crop Research Grants
SCRI grants to total $48 million for 2018 fiscal year. Read More
Grapes
October 13, 2017
Fairgrounds Host California Fire Evacuees
Gallo will contribute $1 million to fire recovery effort and will match employee donations two-for-one. Read More
Fallen citrus fruit in wake of Irma
Citrus
October 12, 2017
Irma Rains Down on Florida Citrus Crop Estimate
Initial USDA forecast reflects the fruits of what was left behind by monster storm. Read More
Grapes
October 10, 2017
Wildfires Hit California Wine Country
California Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency for northern counties impacted by flames. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
October 19, 2017
Disaster Relief: Ways Florida Growers Ca…
With billions of dollars lost to Irma, financial assistance will be crucial for many. Read More
Fruits
October 19, 2017
New Online Tool Helps Growers Determine …
California Land Use Viewer can help growers determine if they can adopt groundwater recharge practices on their own operations. Read More
Irrigation
October 19, 2017
Northeast Florida Farmers Stepping up to…
Green light given to nine agricultural projects steeped in stewardship. Read More
Vegetables
October 18, 2017
The 2018 State of the Vegetable Industry…
How has this year performed for you? Share how things have gone this year – and your expectations for 2018 – in our shorter, more focused survey. Read More
Citrus
October 18, 2017
How to Keep Track of Climate Change
Use cool tools to find out how your production methods may change in the future, how much your area is at risk, and how to limit your own impact on the climate. Read More
Vegetables
October 18, 2017
Stop Viewing Fellow Growers as the Enemy…
Instead, growers should focus on issues that benefit everyone, from gaining a stronger voice when negotiating with retailers, to finding a way to share ideas and costs on precision agriculture tools. Read More
Citrus
October 17, 2017
USDA Issues Disaster Declaration for Hur…
Operators in designated counties eligible for emergency assistance. Read More
Fruits
October 17, 2017
Hirst Named American Society of Horticul…
Honor was presented during society’s annual meeting. Read More
Crop Protection
October 17, 2017
EPA Takes Steps to Reduce Risk of Drift-…
With reports of dicamba injuries in tomatoes, peaches, grapes, and other crops, the agency works to reduce the impact of spray drift on vulnerable crops. Read More
Fruits
October 16, 2017
New Broad-Spectrum Herbicide Released by…
Grapple herbicide works on pre- and post-emergent weeds in orchards and vineyards. Read More
Citrus
October 16, 2017
Wrath of Hurricane Irma’s Rainfall…
Report says storm dropped enough gallons of water on Florida’s St. Johns River Water Management District to swamp 6.7 million football fields. Read More
Fruits
October 14, 2017
USDA Seeks Applications for Next Round o…
SCRI grants to total $48 million for 2018 fiscal year. Read More
Grapes
October 13, 2017
Fairgrounds Host California Fire Evacuee…
Gallo will contribute $1 million to fire recovery effort and will match employee donations two-for-one. Read More
Citrus
October 12, 2017
Irma Rains Down on Florida Citrus Crop E…
Initial USDA forecast reflects the fruits of what was left behind by monster storm. Read More
Grapes
October 10, 2017
Wildfires Hit California Wine Country
California Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency for northern counties impacted by flames. Read More
Citrus
October 10, 2017
Impressions from Irma Indelible on the F…
Striking images from the field reveal not only the storm’s destructive nature, but also paths to recovery and reconstruction. Read More
Crop Protection
October 9, 2017
Field Scouting Guide: Black Rot of Brass…
Follow these tips for spotting and treating Xanthomonas campestris. Read More
Citrus
October 9, 2017
(We Won’t Back Down … ) Stan…
You don’t have to be a super hero, rock star, or award-winning scientist to aid farming. You can help by supporting professionalism in fields. Read More