This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Everyday at USDA, we work to ensure that American agriculture delivers safe, nutritious food and clean, plentiful water. But we’re facing serious challenges worldwide affecting agriculture and natural resources. With our agricultural system under stress, we must partner to find new ways to approach solutions to these challenges.
A new partnership that’s creating a lot of excitement is the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). The Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, established this new, private, non-profit Foundation to foster research, innovation, and public-private partnerships important to America’s agricultural economy. This independent nonprofit foundation will consult with USDA to fund complementary research activities to address challenges relating to plant and animal health, production and products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and the environment; agricultural and food security; agriculture systems and technology; and agricultural economics and rural communities. Congress provided $200 million for the Foundation, and this money must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects. In this way, the Foundation will leverage private donations to fund research activities making this a truly public-private partnership.
A few weeks ago, on behalf of the five ex-officio members of the Foundation Board, Secretary Vilsack announced incorporation of the Foundation and the appointment of a 15-member board of directors. Congress mandated that the board’s five ex-officio members choose the initial 15 voting board members from lists of nominees provided by industry and the National Academy of Sciences. Overall seven members were chosen from industry nominees, while eight representatives were selected from NAS-proposed candidates. The board membership spans many sectors of agriculture and science, and the new board members have the option of adding additional members to increase the board’s diversity.
The United States has one of the world’s largest agricultural research and development systems and USDA recognizes that vigorous investment in new agricultural research is essential to maintaining growth in agricultural productivity. Over the past 150 years, USDA has forged a complex federal-state-university-private sector research and development system in the United States to provide a steady stream of innovation for food and agriculture. Public-private partnerships work. And with federal budgetary constraints, this out-of-the-box approach will also. We look forward to the research developments that this Foundation will produce to maintain a thriving American agricultural system for us all.