Research & Innovation

Consensus RecommendationsAction AgendaRelated Publications

Research & Innovation: Strengthening Agricultural Research

Today, the world faces a unique set of societal and environmental challenges at the nexus of food, nutrition, health, and agriculture. A more sharply-focused agricultural research system will be critical to overcome these challenges.

Significant population growth – an additional two billion or more people by 2050 – is projected against a fast-evolving backdrop of changing food and agricultural systems, shifting global trade patterns, urbanization, and rural economic decline. Global agricultural production will need to increase to meet growing demand for food and feed, while facing limitations on the availability of cultivable land and simultaneously addressing a host of environmental challenges: water scarcity, agricultural disease and pest outbreaks, emerging zoonotic and infectious diseases, climate change, and extreme weather events. At the same time, food insecurity and chronic under-nutrition coexist in many nations with rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.

A modernized research system would unleash food and agricultural innovation, which are key to addressing these multi-faceted challenges and improving the health of families, rural and urban communities, and the environment far into the future. Agricultural research and innovation are critical drivers of U.S. economic growth; recent reports estimate a return on investment of 10:1(PCAST report, 2012) and a net social return of at least 20:1(Pardey, Philip G., Alston, Julian M., & Chan-Kang, Connie. AGree. 2013). In order to meet 21st century challenges and achieve the vision of an increasingly productive and healthy food and agricultural system, AGree believes the U.S. agricultural research enterprise must be significantly strengthened.

Strategy: Efforts to increase overall federal funding for food and agricultural research must be undertaken in conjunction with a significant reform agenda to ensure existing resources are leveraged to maximize the public benefit. AGree is working with diverse constituents to advocate for:

  • A shift in U.S. research priorities to align with emerging challenges and opportunities;
  • A strong emphasis on transdisciplinary, long-term, global, and systems-based research;
  • Near- and long-term reforms to shift where and how funds are allocated; and
  • Increased federal appropriations for food and agricultural research, as reforms are achieved.

Our consensus recommendations address overarching opportunities for change, such as greater Congressional oversight of the food and ag research enterprise; federal research priority-setting; and grant-making mechanisms and funding levels.

Consensus Recommendations: Research & Innovation: Strengthening Agricultural Research

AGree hosted a press briefing on June 24, 2015, in conjunction with the public release of the consensus recommendations report Research & Innovation: Strengthening Agricultural Research. AGree’s four Co-Chairs – Kathleen Merrigan, Dan Glickman, Jim Moseley, and Emmy Simmons – and AGree Executive Director Deb Atwood presented opening remarks to the press in attendance, followed by Q&A. Their presentations noted the urgent need to strengthen the U.S. food and agricultural research enterprise through increased investment and changes to the system. Reporters from Agri-Pulse, Bloomberg News, Bloomberg BNA, Penton Agriculture, and Wisconsin State Farmer joined the press briefing. A full recording of the briefing is available here.

Action Agenda

AGree serves as a catalyst for action by:

  1. Convening a diverse coalition of leaders, including those not traditionally involved in agricultural policy dialogues, to coalesce around and advance fundamental, long-term reforms to the public food and agricultural research enterprise.
  2. Mobilizing specific constituencies and building partnerships to shape and advocate for achievable near-term changes to USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mandate and practices. To make a compelling case for increased public funding for research and innovation activities, we must sharpen the allocation and deployment of existing resources.
  3. Strengthening the ability of the new Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR), outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill, to effectively engage multiple stakeholders in identifying research priorities and public-private partnership opportunities.

Related Publications

A Call to Action for the Trump Administration | Elevate Food and Agriculture as a National Priority:

President Trump has highlighted the importance of agriculture and said he expects his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, Governor Sonny Perdue, to "deliver big results." AGree is standing by to assist. 4 pages. February 2017.


A Call to Presidential Action | Elevating Food and Agriculture as a National Priority:

The right food and agricultural policies can improve the health of America’s families, economy, farms and the environment, as outlined in recommendations AGree is presenting to presidential candidates. AGree’s Call to Action provides core elements in a strategy for elevating food and agriculture as a national priority. 4 pages. January 2016.

Research & Innovation: Strengthening Agricultural Research:

AGree's recommendations on Research & Innovation. June 2015.

Five Perspectives on Improving the U.S. Public Research, Education, and Extension System:

This compilation of papers was written by independent authors in response to a call issued by AGree to elicit bold ideas on strengthening the U.S. public sector agricultural research system. 82 pages. June 2013.

1. Reforming “Formula Fund” Distribution of USDA Funding for Research, Extension, and Education. By Steve Ventura.

2. Improving Information Management at USDA to Support Research, Education, and Extension. By Marjorie Porter and Steve Ventura.

3. Stakeholder Engagement to Provide Advice on USDA Supported Research, Extension, and Education. By Steve Ventura.

4. Strengthening the U.S. Agricultural Research, Education, and Extension System: A Reorientation Model to Address 21st Century Challenges. By Meredith Niles, Ferd Hoefner, Ariane Lotti, and Juli Obudzinski.

5. Strengthening the U.S. Agricultural Research System. By Liz Carlisle and Albie Miles.

Public Food and Agricultural Research in the United States:The Rise and Decline of Public Investments, and Policies for Renewal:

The report shows how public funding for agricultural research and development (R&D) has declined markedly in recent decades. As the authors note, major competitors—most notably China—have not reduced their spending on agricultural R&D, and their agricultural productivity growth continues. The authors call for a doubling of total funding for agricultural R&D over the next 5–10 years. They cite this period as a crucial time to reposition the U.S. food and agricultural research and innovation system to address the changing scientific and market realities and note the related implications for food safety, nutrition, health, the agricultural workforce, and rural and community development. By Philip G. Pardey, Julian M. Alston and Connie Chan-Kang. 58 pages. April 2013.

Facing the Future: Critical Challenges to Food and Agriculture:

The four papers in this series describe the critical challenges AGree believes are facing the food and agriculture system. They articulate the important facts, issues, and questions that need to be addressed. 54 pages. May 2012.

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