Title: Agricultural Research: A Perspective on the 2018 National Academies Report on Priorities for the Future
For more than 130 years federal funding for agricultural research has been provided through the appropriation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Over the past 20 years that amount in real dollars has not increased relative to needs. Advocates for increased funding have regularly been challenged to answer the question - What are the priorities? In 2017, the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) joined to fund a National Academies study (Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030) to answer that question. The report was released in July 2018 with the following recommendations: (1) prioritize transdisciplinary science and a systems approach, (2) effectively employ existing sensor technologies and develop new sensing technologies for all areas of food and agricultural production, (3) nurture the development of the emerging area of agri-food informatics and facilitate the adoption and development of information technology, data science and artificial intelligence in food and agricultural research, (4) harness the use of genomics and precision breeding to improve plant and animal traits, (5) increase understanding of the animal, soil and plant microbiomes and the broader applications across the food system. These recommendations have relevance to federal funding of agricultural research as well as strategic planning and hiring priorities within colleges of agriculture and related fields.