NC State among universities calling for increased ag research investment

Researchers in a corn field.

NC State University researchers at the Cunningham Research Station in Kinston.

NC State University, along with 12 other prominent research institutions, joined the SoAR Foundation today in calling for a surge in federal support of food and agricultural science. Retaking the Field, the report released by this coalition, highlights recent scientific innovations and illustrates how U.S. agricultural production is losing ground to China and other global competitors.

Steven Lommel, NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences associate dean and director for the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, said, “We have an abundant, safe and nutritious food supply because of the agriculture research funded by the federal government. We need to double food production in the next 35 years while considering the quality and safety of our food, which will require continued research.”

Retaking the Field looks at the importance of agriculture and its related industries to the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this sector was responsible for nearly 1 in 10 jobs in 2014 and contributed $835 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. Even though every public dollar invested in agricultural research provides $20 in economic returns, the federal budget for agricultural research has remained flat for decades. Today, the U.S. trails China in both agricultural production and public research funding.

The report called out Rodolphe Barrangou’s incredible CRISPR technology. Barrangou helped uncovered CRISPR, an adaptive immune system that defends against unwanted invaders. Using cutting-edge CRISPR technology NC State’s Barrangou hopes to track and minimize foodborne bacteria, a critical feat in safeguarding the food supply.

“Researchers are discovering incredible breakthroughs, helping farmers produce more food using fewer resources, and keeping our meals safe and nutritious,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation. “However, the science behind agriculture and food production is starved of federal support at a time of unprecedented challenges. A new surge in public funding is essential if our agricultural system is going to meet the needs of American families in an increasingly competitive global market.”

Farming has never been an easy endeavor, and today’s challenges to agricultural production are daunting. The historic California drought continues, and U.S. production is also threatened by new pests and pathogens, like the 2015 avian influenza outbreak that led to the culling of 48 million birds in 15 states and $2.6 billion in economic damages.

“Every year, the director of national intelligence testifies before Congress that our national security is threatened by hunger in unstable regions,” said Grumbly. “As the number of people on our planet continues to grow, we must produce more food. This cannot be done with yesterday’s science. We need a larger infusion of cutting-edge technologies.”

Retaking the Field “is designed to make our congressional delegates and decision makers aware of the value of ag research. It is imperative that we continue funding ag research, because although we currently have a plentiful food source, population and environmental conditions will affect that in the future,” Lommel said.

The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation lead a non-partisan coalition working to educate stakeholders about the importance of agricultural research and focus more of our best minds on feeding America and the world. SoAR advocates for full funding for the Agriculture Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) to encourage top scientists from multiple disciplines to address agriculture-related challenges to improve public health and strengthen our economic competitiveness.

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