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Agricultural News

Roger Beachy Makes the Case for More Dollars to Ag Research

Tue, 13 Dec 2011 09:14:11 CST

Roger Beachy Makes the Case for More Dollars to Ag Research A leading scientist recently told American millers that U.S. investment in agricultural research is less than 1 percent of the total farm gate value of goods, which must be increased by developing a greater voice for "the science of agriculture" through cross-sector efforts.

Dr. Robert Beachy, former head of USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and a trustee of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, spoke at the North American Millers' Association annual meeting earlier this fall. Click here for the full presentation from Dr. Beachy at the North American Millers Association meeting.

From his unique perspective as a former Obama Administration official and a leader of a major, non-profit research center, Beachy described for NAMA members his view of opportunities and challenges for both U.S. and global agriculture.

He said that to double agricultural output by 2050, when the global population is expected to be around 9 billion, without growing agriculture's environmental footprint, the rate of productivity growth will need to rise from around 1.4 percent annually to at least 1.75 percent annually.

Beachy said challenges for food providers going forward will include ensuring adequate supplies of food for a growing population, while adapting to changes in the climate, finding new and sustainable sources of energy and ensuring natural resources. To facilitate these goals, Beachy also identified profitability in the agriculture sector as a necessary component of sustainability for the industry.

Beachy said a second "green revolution" began 15 years ago with the introduction of biotechnology and predicted a third green revolution will occur around efforts to reduce food losses and waste and to couple efforts to achieve food security goals with production of secondary effects, like bioenergy.

He said modern technologies, including biotechnology, will be essential to sustainability efforts, describing biotechnology's positive impact on the environment, greenhouse gas emissions and productivity for those crops in which it is widely incorporated.

Beachy also addressed the state of agricultural research reinvestment, telling audience members an estimated $121 billion is invested annually in agriculture research, with an additional $165 billion invested by food manufacturing companies. These investments support about 3.7 million jobs, as well as the sales of agriculture goods, services and food products in the U.S. and overseas.

To increase the money going to basic and applied research, he called for cross-sector efforts to identify research targets and partnerships, as well as the development of new funding mechanisms. He specifically said collaborations and public, private and government partnerships will be essential in the future of agriculture research, as challenges rise while available dollars decrease.



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