Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Collaborations in Agriculture Research and Development Highlighted at the Agriculture, Food, Nutrition and Natural Resources R&D Roundtable

ASA, CSSA, SSSA and the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation, in collaboration with United State Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Research, Education and Economics Mission Area, the USDA Forest Service and USDA’s National Agricultural Research, Education, Extension and Economics Advisory Board, organized a Round Table to highlight the value of collaborations in agriculture research and development. Seventy participants gathered for the day-long event, held March 15 in Washington D.C. at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), to listen to presentations about and discuss public and private research and development collaborations in agriculture, food, nutrition and natural resources as a means for meeting the challenge of feeding future generations.

The day was organized into different sessions. Shere Abbott, the Associate Director for Environment of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President, provided a keynote address in the opening session. During her talk, Abbott addressed challenges linked to science and technology, why science matters, the Administration’s focus on sustainability and climate change and how agriculture and natural resources fit into that focus, and OSTP’s vision for addressing such challenges. She described how the federal government is addressing the challenges posed by climate change to agricultural sustainability by activities undertaken through the United States Global Change Research Program. Aligning with the day’s theme of collaborations and partnerships, Abbott emphasized the importance of inter-agency relationships that allow issues to be addressed beyond the scope of a single agency, highlighting USDA and the USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative. Abbott went on to describe OSTP’s support of research efforts and vision to create an "infrastructure of greater collaboration and greater outreach to end-users. This whole approach towards sustainability is designed with that link between science and decision-making. Public-private partnerships also can be strengthened to meet the magnitude and urgency of the needs.”, Abbott stated. In her conclusion she described the need for strong support of science and the need to develop funding structures for integrated R&D programs.

Following Abbott’s presentation was an overview of Federal R&D Budgets followed the keynote address, during which Caron Gala Bijl, Senior Science Policy Associate at ASA, CSSA, SSSA presented about food, nutrition, agriculture, and natural resource science programs and funding in the FY 12 Budget.

Dr. Cathie Woteki, Under Secretary for USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics Mission Area talked about the challenge of preserving agricultural successes traced to research success in the face of budget constraints, in her presentation entitled “Science Agenda for the 21st Century” which launched the first session. Dr. Woteki articulated the danger in taking for granted the scientific insights that are needed to combat challenges of animal and plant disease or climate change which can affect the ability of farmers to produce important commodities and products. The President's proposed USDA budget “emphasizes the efficient and effective use of research and resources combined with leveraging strategic partnerships with other federal agencies, as well as with the private sector, to get the greatest return on our investments”. Woteki ascertained that despite the need for strong investments in the challenges facing our food and agricultural sector, because of the reality of the budget and need to address the federal deficit, cuts are part of the operational reality. Woteki conveyed steady assurance while making clear that despite such necessary cuts, the strategic increases proposed will "enable the REE agencies to continue to make new discoveries and to develop new technologies that contribute to the success of American agriculture from which all of us will benefit."

The presentations that followed illustrated eight successful case studies of federal agency and partner organization collaborations regarding crop production and water management, biofuels, conservation, pest control, wild land restoration, food safety, nutrition, and the bovine genome.

A link to the archived webcast of the event which documents all presentations and discussion can be viewed at: http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/farmfoundation/110315/default.cfm?id=13337&type=flv&test=0&live=0

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