Dwindling funds imperil the ‘slow magic’ of agri-food research
In the early days of USDA, half of the department's budget was directed to agricultural research and development. Nowadays, its share is 1.8 percent and the nation trails competitors that include China, said economist Philip Pardey of the University of Minnesota in calling for a hefty increase in funding.
Report: Research is key to thwarting climate impact on agriculture
The global demand for food is rising at the same time that climate change is affecting agricultural production, especially in developing nations, said a new report that calls for increased funding of agricultural research and extension programs to boost productivity on smallholder farms.
Rising heat snuffs out plant fertilization
Pollination is at the heart of a plant's reproductive system, but climate change and rising heat are wreaking havoc on the process, according to FERN's latest story by Carolyn Beans, produced in collaboration with Yale Environment 360. "One point is becoming alarmingly clear to scientists: heat is a pollen killer. Even with adequate water, heat can damage pollen and prevent fertilization in canola and many other crops, including corn, peanuts, and rice," Beans writes.
Jacobs-Young wins Senate approval as USDA chief scientist
The Senate confirmed Chavonda Jacobs-Young as USDA undersecretary for research on Tuesday, the first woman of color to hold the post. As undersecretary, Jacobs-Young — a supporter of genetic engineering — will also be USDA’s chief scientist. “I know she will help protect scientific integrity at …
Trump’s USDA relocated research agencies despite warnings of high staff attrition
In 2019, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the government would save $300 million over 15 years by moving two research agencies to Kansas City from the District of Columbia. However, congressional auditors now say USDA's selection process was flawed and disregarded estimates that up to 75 percent of employees would quit rather than move.
USDA inaugurates livestreaming of ‘secretary data briefings’
With the arrival of the internet, the Agriculture Department made its vast library of reports and analyses available to the public, from the closely watched monthly crop estimates to assessments of the impact of the pandemic on meatpackers. The USDA went a step further on Wednesday by presenting the first live internet broadcast of one of the briefings USDA analysts give the agriculture secretary whenever a major report is published.
Nominee would build ‘civil rights culture’ at USDA
Declaring "there is no place at USDA for discrimination," University of Michigan law professor Margo Schlanger told senators on Wednesday that she would build "a civil rights culture" at the USDA if confirmed as assistant secretary for civil rights. At the same confirmation hearing, Chavonda Jacobs-Young said she would be an advocate for advanced technology, such as gene editing, if confirmed as undersecretary for research.
Genetic engineering is the future of agriculture, scientists tell lawmakers
The United States must modernize its regulation of agricultural biotechnology, especially in livestock, to reap the benefits of genetic engineering editing and to lead the world in breakthroughs of food production, said a panel of scientists on Tuesday. Joined by some farm-state lawmakers, panelists said the FDA and USDA should share duties in regulation of GE plants and animals.
USDA ‘hiring at an extremely fast pace’ to rebuild ERS and NIFA
One-third of the jobs at two USDA research agencies are still vacant 18 months after their abrupt Trump-era relocation to Kansas City, said the chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the USDA budget on Wednesday.
Big increases for rural power, WIC, ag research in Biden proposal
Most of the increased spending proposed by President Biden for USDA's so-called discretionary accounts would go to three things: Rural electricity, WIC and agricultural research. If approved by Congress, the money would accelerate the shift to cleaner electricity, help low-income families put food on the table and, as part of climate mitigation, find ways to verify carbon sequestration and greenhouse-gas reduction on the farm, said the White House.
Lippman awarded NAS prize for research into hardier crops
Genetics professor Zachary Lippman is the winner of the 2020 Prize in Food and Agricultural Sciences, announced the National Academy of Sciences on Wednesday. The honor is awarded annually to a mid-career scientist making extraordinary contributions to agriculture or biology.
Lawmakers propose USDA agency for agricultural innovation
The USDA would sprout a new research agency, dedicated to innovative agricultural technologies that will increase economic opportunity in the agriculture sector and rural communities, under legislation announced by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne on Monday. The Advanced …
Few ERS and NIFA replacements as relocation reaches milestone date
When Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Kansas City as the new home for two USDA research agencies, officials laid out an aggressive schedule to have everyone in place by today, the final day of fiscal 2019. The USDA has hired only a comparative handful of workers to stanch staff turnover that could exceed 75 percent and the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee says the disruption is affecting farm bill implementation.
USDA expected agency relocation would drive away employees
With the USDA on the cusp of moving two research agencies to Kansas City, a senior official said on Thursday that massive staff turnover — so far, 250 employees have declined to leave Washington — is par for the course for cross-country relocations. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow offered a different take: “This is not a relocation. It’s a demolition.”
GOP hoots ‘elitist’ as Democrats question USDA’s plan to relocate researchers
Hoping to dissuade Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, farm-state Democrats in Congress asked for a cost-benefit analysis that would justify moving two USDA research agencies out of Washington. Two senior Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee ridiculed the opposition to the relocation as elitism and knee-jerk obstructionism of President Trump.
Secret sites are on USDA’s short list for new homes of relocated agencies
The finalists in Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's plan to move two research agencies out of Washington include "multiple" undisclosed sites in Indiana, a symbol of complaints of hidden motives and scanty material to support the move. Separately, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, a perennial USDA research partner, said it feared relocation would damage the effectiveness of the grant-making National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The high cost of the government’s failure to invest in agriculture R&D
U.S. farmers and ranchers face a host of problems that could be solved or greatly curtailed by scientific innovation. But the federal government has largely abandoned its role as a leading funder of agricultural research and development, writes Alan Leshner, CEO emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in The Hill.
More and more, industry calls the shots on ag research
Legislators and governors have scaled back funding for state universities in recent years, and one result is that industry funding has become more important, says the New Food Economy. “And with industry money comes industry priorities.”