December 22, 2014

Pursuing a unifying message…

By Deb Hamernik, ASAS Public Policy Committee Chair

A new report, “Pursuing a Unifying Message: Elevating Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Research as a National Priority” was released during an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on December 5, 2014. The report calls for a new, unified effort to achieve the ambitious goal of enhancing investments in and expanding the overall funding portfolio of food, agriculture and natural resources. According to the authors, “The self interest that often fragments the effectiveness of the agricultural research message must be set aside. The best chance for improving the research landscape is to work together.”

Charles Valentine Riley was a major 19th century figure who possessed a vision for enhancing the success of agriculture through new scientific knowledge.

Charles Valentine Riley was a major 19th century figure who possessed a vision for enhancing the success of agriculture through new scientific knowledge.

In this report, agriculture is broadly defined to include the essential elements of everyday life: food, fiber, nutrition, energy, natural resources, environmental quality, etc. Most animal scientists understand that all of these elements are closely linked with the production of animal-sourced foods, which provide a positive influence on the quality of human life and contribute to the public good. Thus, animal scientists must be ready to engage in these conversations and provide leadership to ensure that all aspects of the production of animal-sourced foods are included in this effort to pursue a unifying message.

Agricultural research is also broadly defined in this report and includes agricultural production and rural communities, forestry, natural resources, food science and human nutrition with the common themes of sustainability, resiliency and innovation. The effects of climate change, alternative energy sources, water quality and quantity, public health, hunger, and job creation also need to be addressed.

Formation of a coalition to develop the case for enhanced investment in agricultural research and additional input from a wide range of stakeholders to shape the future of the national agricultural research enterprise is another element of this report. This effort will require coordination, communication, and partnerships among many sectors including federal agencies, universities, scientific societies, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, industries, public-private partnerships, etc.

A consensus message that is focused and tells a compelling story that captures the public’s imagination to position agricultural research among the nation’s highest research priorities is also needed. Formulating a consensus message to generate public support provides another opportunity for animal scientists and ASAS to play a key role. ASAS is already poised to contribute to this national effort with the ASAS Grand Challenges; the quarterly production of the open-access animal agriculture magazine, Animal Frontiers; the ASAS Snack and Fact briefings in Washington, D.C.; and the ASAS Science Policy Summer Internship program.

The report was sponsored by the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation and Iowa State University in partnership with the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Texas Tech University, and Colorado State University.