The USDA and the Food Research Initiative (AFRI) have made possible $30.1 million to fund research projects pertaining to food safety, antibiotic resistance, and resilience of plants facing climate change. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and President Obama’s Science and Technology Advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. John P. Holdren recently announced that, after a competitive process, this money has been awarded to 80 research projects.
The announcement further included the information that the President’s 2017 Budget will fully fund AFRI, with $700 million. In the seven years since it was established, AFRI has worked to combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate the impact of climate change, and enhance resiliency of the food system.
“In the face of diminishing land and water resources and increasingly variable climatic conditions, food production must increase to meet the demands of world population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050,” said Vilsack. “Funding in research to respond to these challenges should be considered as an investment in our nation’s future, an investment which will pay big dividends in the years to come.”
Since its creation, AFRI has been funded at less than half the levels established in the 2008 Farm Bill, and USDA has only been able to fund one out of ten research proposals presented. While grants awarded to universities, non-profits, community groups, businesses, foundations, associations, and federal agency and international partnerships have led to significant achievements that address critical issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities, thousands of innovative research proposals have been left unfunded.
“Science, technology, and innovation are essential to meeting virtually every challenge our Nation faces, which is why the Administration has consistently supported increasing Federal investments in R&D,” said Dr. Holdren. “Further strengthening our investments in agricultural research will be essential for U.S. farmers to be able to keep the Nation’s food supply abundant, healthy, reliable, and sustainable through the 21st century. That’s why the President’s forthcoming 2017 budget request doubles funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to the full authorized level of $700 million.”