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
Vegetables
January 23, 2017
The Northwest Has the Most Growers Under 55 Years Old
Survey respondents in the Northwest are more likely to grow organically, avoid genetically modified crops [GMOs], and more likely to Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
California Lands $5 Million for Citrus Greening Research
The USDA grant will be used to create and identify possible solutions for a cure. Read More
Postbloom Fruit Drop symptoms on Florida ctirus
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
Florida Citrus Growers on Alert for Postbloom Fruit Drop
After the worst outbreak in years, growers should be wary of this disorder. Read More
More Vegetables
January 23, 2017
California Garlic Grower to Raise Minimum Wage by 30% by Next Year
Christopher Ranch commits to $15 per hour minimum wages for all employees by 2018. Read More
a trio of peaches
Fruits
January 20, 2017
Insecticide Label Expanded to Many Specialty Crops
Sivanto Prime from Bayer can now be used in foliar form on stone fruit and caneberries, and for soil use on leafy and brassica vegetables. Read More
Cucurbits
January 20, 2017
Renowned Researcher Margaret McGrath Receives Cornell’s Excellence in IPM Award 
A plant pathologist, McGrath’s expertise has helped both organic and conventional growers fight late blight, downy mildew, and others.  Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine Industry
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
Jones Potato Farm field in Parrish, FL
Citrus
January 20, 2017
Farming Will Always Have a Place in Florida [Opinion]
Growers are resilient and agriculture will survive in our state and elsewhere. It has to, if we want food on our plates. Read More
Stemphylium leaf spot of spinach
Disease Control
January 20, 2017
Don’t Let Stemphylium Leaf Spot Stump Your Spinach Crop
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this vegetable disease. Read More
The Latest
Vegetables
January 23, 2017
The Northwest Has the Most Growers Under…
Survey respondents in the Northwest are more likely to grow organically, avoid genetically modified crops [GMOs], and more likely to Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
California Lands $5 Million for Citrus G…
The USDA grant will be used to create and identify possible solutions for a cure. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
Florida Citrus Growers on Alert for Post…
After the worst outbreak in years, growers should be wary of this disorder. Read More
More Vegetables
January 23, 2017
California Garlic Grower to Raise Minimu…
Christopher Ranch commits to $15 per hour minimum wages for all employees by 2018. Read More
Fruits
January 20, 2017
Insecticide Label Expanded to Many Speci…
Sivanto Prime from Bayer can now be used in foliar form on stone fruit and caneberries, and for soil use on leafy and brassica vegetables. Read More
Cucurbits
January 20, 2017
Renowned Researcher Margaret McGrath Rec…
A plant pathologist, McGrath’s expertise has helped both organic and conventional growers fight late blight, downy mildew, and others.  Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine In…
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
Farm Marketing
January 20, 2017
Direct Marketing Revenue Topped $8 Billi…
USDA has released its first-ever survey on direct marketing, and it shows that the local food industry is huge. Read More
Citrus
January 20, 2017
Farming Will Always Have a Place in Flor…
Growers are resilient and agriculture will survive in our state and elsewhere. It has to, if we want food on our plates. Read More
Disease Control
January 20, 2017
Don’t Let Stemphylium Leaf Spot St…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this vegetable disease. Read More
Disease Control
January 19, 2017
Clues Found to Block Late Blight’s…
With food security at stake, breakthrough in genetic research could help prevent more strains of the deadly pathogen from entering the U.S. Read More
Grapes
January 19, 2017
U.S. Challenges Canadian Trade Measures …
Trade enforcement action challenges British Columbia regulations that unfairly exclude U.S. wine from grocery store shelves. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
Trump Taps Sonny Perdue for Secretary of…
Ag leaders applaud pick to head up USDA. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
New York Representatives Introduce Bill …
Legislators say the move aligns the program in the department to better fit the needs of agriculture businesses. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
New Technology Could Take Weather Intel …
Scientists aiming to make difficult climate-based production decisions easier for growers. Read More
Fruits
January 19, 2017
Funding Available to Improve Ag, Food Sc…
USDA announces $18.9 million for ag education at 1890s land-grant colleges and universities. Read More
Citrus
January 18, 2017
NASA, NOAA Concur 2016 Was World’s Warme…
For the third time in three years, the heat gets turned up on surface temperature statistics. Read More
Vegetables
January 18, 2017
Southwest Growers Are Best Prepared for …
Almost half of all Southwest operations are grooming its next generation of leadership — an alarmingly low statistic, but one that is the highest in the country, according to American Vegetable Grower magazine's 2017 State of the Vegetable Industry survey. Read More