New report highlights how stagnant U.S. public funding for agricultural research threatens food systems
Stagnant public funding for agricultural research threatens the future vitality of U.S. food systems – posing risks to the productivity and profitability of farmers, the continued supply of affordable food to consumers, and ultimately the bottom line, according to a new report. account, global food security.
The report, jointly commissioned by the Farm Journal Foundation and the American Farm Bureau Federation and authored by IHS Markit Agribusiness Consulting Group, highlights the vital importance of public funding for agricultural research and development (R&D). New innovations are crucial for farmers to increase their productivity and meet the growing global demand for food, even as climate change intensifies. The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050, and food production will need to increase by 60-70% to meet growing demand. While private sector funding for agricultural R&D has increased, US government spending has remained stable over the past decade.
“The United States has always been a leader in agricultural innovation, but we risk losing that advantage by falling behind the rest of the world in research and development,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “This report shows that there is a clear need for agricultural research to benefit not only farmers, but our entire food system and everyone who eats it. Research will unlock the answers to grow more crops even as we face increasingly volatile weather conditions, help create a more resilient food system supply chain, and provide foods of higher nutritional value. This is the golden ticket.
Public investment is crucial, as private companies have less incentive to research topics that benefit society as a whole but offer potentially lower monetary returns, such as in the areas of environmental research, animal health, specialty crops and food security. Private companies mainly focus their research spending on a few large crop and livestock markets, leaving other sectors under-explored.
Other countries see the value of investing in agricultural research, putting the United States at risk of losing its competitive advantage in agricultural production and exports. China became the world’s largest public funder of agricultural R&D in 2009, and India and Brazil are also making significant investments.
The development and commercialization of new technologies can take years. Therefore, research funded today must seek to anticipate and solve the problems of tomorrow. In order to make agriculture and food supply chains more resilient, increased research funding is needed at all levels. This paper focuses on the key areas of plant breeding, crop protection, animal health, animal and foodborne illnesses, climate change and global pandemics as case studies.
“COVID-19 should be a red flag that more public research funding is needed to deal with unexpected shocks,” said Tricia Beal, CEO of Farm Journal Foundation. “The pandemic has created enormous challenges for agricultural supply chains around the world. He also showed how quickly pathogens can spread. Increased public support for agricultural research is crucial to finding solutions to make our entire food system more resilient. “
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