In a report released December 7, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology provided a number of recommendations in response to the drought experienced across most of the Midwest in the summer of 2012. The report, "Agricultural Preparedness and the Agricultural Research Enterprise," (available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast_agriculture_20121207.pdf) analyzed challenges related to climate change, water scarcity, and other factors. Recommendations include:
- Increasing the role of competition in agricultural research funding at the USDA and upping both the USDA's and National Science Foundation's budgets for agricultural research
- Expanding fellowship programs for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers (by $180 million per year, with at least 5-year funding)
- Enhancing the USDA program of competitive awards for new infrastructure investments for agricultural research
- Creating six large, multidisciplinary "innovation institutes," supported by public-private partnerships, that would focus on emerging challenges to agriculture; this would require a new federal investment of $150 million per year for at least five years
- Reviewing federal regulatory policy to promote regulatory clarity and technology transfer from national laboratories to the marketplace
- Establishing (1) an implementation committee to act on the report's recommendations and (2) an independent science advisory committee to advise the Chief Scientist of the USDA
The report also emphasizes the need to redirect federal agricultural research away from specific crops and commodities, since private research is already motivated to support this work; instead, USDA should seek to address research gaps and foster the development of broader "innovation ecosystem" approaches.
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