A new coalition of high-profile individuals and science organizations seeking to raise awareness of the needs for investment in agricultural research launched this week.
The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SOAR) kicked off Wednesday, supporting competitive grants and full funding for USDA competitive grants program Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
Founding board members of the new effort include William Danforth, chancellor emeritus, Washington University in St. Louis; Carol Tucker-Foreman, distinguished fellow, Food Policy Institute, Consumer Federation of America; Roger Beachy, president emeritus, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center; and Don Kennedy, past editor-in-chief of Science magazine.
“America today lacks an agricultural research enterprise capable of directing the full might of the nation’s scientific brainpower toward solving an array of problems that agriculture is uniquely suited to solve,” Danforth said at the launch event. “A key reason for this shortcoming is that insufficient funding is allocated for agriculture grants that are open to all scientists regardless of their field.”
The new group is one of many seeking to press Congress for additional agricultural research funding.
The National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research (NC-FAR) and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) are two organizations actively supporting more ag research dollars and more efficient use of those that are already allocated.
The National Association of Wheat Growers, a long-time and strong supporter of public research funding along with wheat researchers who participate in the National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC), also welcomes renewed attention on the needs for additional agricultural research funding.
Through the ongoing FY2013 appropriations process, NAWG and state wheat organizations have repeatedly called for increased funding for vital programs at USDA including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and AFRI.
NAWG strongly supports a balanced approach to USDA agricultural research programs that includes intramural capacity. ARS is a key partner in U.S. wheat research, with labs and scientists who use a multi-disciplinary approach to address problems that impact growers, millers and bakers.
Wheat and barley researchers successfully competed for a significant AFRI grant of $25 million and are working to identify new markers that will lead to wheat varieties that can utilize water and nitrogen more efficiently and resist rust diseases.
Although wheat does not have a national checkoff program, wheat growers are contributing an estimated $12 million annually in checkoff dollars toward research at the state level. These funds fill critical gaps created by reduced budgets at state universities. In addition, several state grower groups have invested in major research projects in recent years.
More information about SOAR can be found online at www.supportagresearch.org.
More about wheat research infrastructure, funding and needs is at www.wheatworld.org/research.