Public investment in agricultural research has declined in the past three years, leading current and former USDA officials to question the role of the U.S. in meeting growing world food demands.
America’s role in global agricultural production was discussed Tuesday night in Lincoln, Neb. at the Heuermann Lecture, "Regaining the U.S. Lead in Agricultural and Natural Resources Research and Education.”
Catherine Woteki, USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics, and Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture presented information on the issue prior to a panel discussion.
Concerns were raised over the falling investments in U.S. agriculture and resulting effects on food production. Glickman spoke to the changing demographics globally, including rising incomes in developing countries which will drive an increased demand for meat and other foods.
The rising population necessitates increased research and development as U.S. farmers and ranchers are limited in land and other resources.
Changing weather patterns will also affect future production. Glickman says the shift in rain patterns and rising temperatures threaten production efficiencies.
“The global food system is growing more fragile. Ag productivity globally could decline two percent each decade just because of these weather volatilities,” Glickman said.
While the U.S. has decreased its investment in agriculture, other countries continue to research and are gaining status in the field.
Woteki says China has surpassed the United States in spending on agricultural science in the last decade and other countries have considerably increased ag productivity.
Glickman says the U.S. can improve its role in global agricultural production, but it needs heroes. He pointed to a stronger relationship with the public who has lost their connection to the farms that grow the food they eat, but are becoming increasingly interested in the process from farm to table.