NAWG CEO Daren Coppock and eight other board members of the National Coalition for Agricultural Research (NC-FAR) met with USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics (REE) Rajiv Shah and Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young last Friday, taking a first step toward renewed and strengthened collaboration between the agriculture community and the REE mission area at USDA.
Jacobs-Young, who heads Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) competitive grant programs and has been tasked with improving communications and dialog with stakeholder groups, was already familiar with NC-FAR and has attended several coalition-sponsored Hill seminars.
At Friday’s meeting, the coalition emphasized its interest in raising the stature and funding level of agricultural research, and demonstrated the importance of customer stakeholders speaking in support of increased funding. Group members discussed at length the unsuccessful attempt to secure research resources in the stimulus bill while many other federal research organizations received sizable allocations of funds.
The Under Secretary emphasized the Administration’s commitment to “transformational change” in the REE mission area with accountability and emphasis on useful outcomes. The Oct. 1 launch of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), created in the 2008 Farm Bill, provides an opportunity to make a big splash.
Shah reiterated the five overarching research priorities of USDA as: health and nutrition, with a focus on child obesity; food safety; bioenergy; climate change; and international food security in developing countries at risk, but not in competition with U.S. ag exports.
Importantly, he emphasized that increased effort in these areas should not displace fundamental production agriculture research. Many farm organizations including NAWG had raised earlier concerns that production agriculture does not figure prominently in these priorities and, apparently, the message has been received.