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agricultural research

People behind Scientific Innovation at USDA

The past eight years have been an extraordinary time for agricultural science, and for the application of new insights from other fields to enhance agricultural productivity and the overall agricultural economy. As the final days of this administration are approaching, it gives me a great deal of pride to look back at what USDA has accomplished in the areas of research and innovation.

Scientific research is a fundamental part of our mission at USDA. But, ultimately, what's behind all the science is people – people who do the research and people who are affected by it. As USDA's Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, I've met and worked with both as I've traveled across the country and around the world.

Agricultural Research Needs to Be a Priority

Seeing President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal and the strong commitment it makes to agricultural research reminds me of Dr. Consuelo De Moraes.

As a university researcher and panel manager of the National Research Initiative (NRI) competitive grants program, I called Dr. De Moraes in 2002 to inform her that USDA was going to fund her research proposal on determining how plants defend themselves against insects, so farmers could exploit the same as a means to control pests. She screamed with happiness. Later I learned that people heard the scream throughout the building at Pennsylvania State University. After that, Dr. De Moraes went on to great acclaim as one of the leading insect researchers.

Newly Launched AgResearch Magazine Showcases USDA Scientific Research in a New Way

Today, I am proud to announce the launch of the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) new digital AgResearch magazine.  AgResearch is a monthly product designed to highlight short features on the scientific research discoveries occurring at the 90-plus ARS research laboratories across the Nation and abroad.

The new magazine replaces the previous print edition of the agency’s Agricultural Research magazine, which debuted in early 1953 and published its last print edition in 2013.  Back then, the bimonthly publication focused on agricultural research stories that addressed the growing food, fiber and agricultural needs of post-World War II America.  Today, we still have that same commitment to bring our readers the research discoveries that have an impact on their everyday lives.

Secretary's Column: The Farm Bill at Work in Your State

Last week, USDA marked the six-month anniversary of the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill. I am proud to say that we’ve made important progress on every title of the Farm Bill, including issuing disaster assistance payments, updating risk management tools, modifying farm loan programs, announcing new support for agricultural research, establishing new conservation programs, and much more.

My team and I at USDA have gathered together some top statistics that show how the Farm Bill is at work in your state—and the record results we’ve achieved this time around. For example:

Uniting Industry Leaders to Propel Agricultural Research

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Everyday at USDA, we work to ensure that American agriculture delivers safe, nutritious food and clean, plentiful water. But we’re facing serious challenges worldwide affecting agriculture and natural resources. With our agricultural system under stress, we must partner to find new ways to approach solutions to these challenges.

A new partnership that’s creating a lot of excitement is the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR).  The Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, established this new, private, non-profit Foundation to foster research, innovation, and public-private partnerships important to America's agricultural economy.  This independent nonprofit foundation will consult with USDA to fund complementary research activities to address challenges relating to plant and animal health, production and products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and the environment; agricultural and food security; agriculture systems and technology; and agricultural economics and rural communities.   Congress provided $200 million for the Foundation, and this money must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects.  In this way, the Foundation will leverage private donations to fund research activities making this a truly public-private partnership.

Secretary's Column: USDA Science You Can See

While most people have a mental image of research that involves scientists in lab coats, bubbling test tubes and beakers, and technical language that can seem complex, much of the groundbreaking research conducted by USDA scientists actually ends up on your plate, in your home, or on your back. Their discoveries in the lab truly translate into science you can see.

For example, many of us make a conscious effort to eat healthier and cut calories, but it can be tough when faced with a favorite snack, like French fries. USDA scientists have figured out a way to make French fries healthier. Before frying, scientists exposed potato strips to a few minutes of infrared heat. This forms a crispy outer shell on the outside of the fries, which helps to reduce their oil uptake and ultimately reduces calories per serving. If adopted commercially, this method is great news for both food processors and our waistlines.

USDA Research Tradition Going Strong in the 21st Century

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.

There are “game changers” in politics, sports, art, music and the like. So it should come as no surprise that there are game changers in agricultural research as well—discoveries that changed the way food is produced, and even created new industries to feed a growing world.

Last week’s seminar commemorating Norman Borlaug’s work to launch the Green Revolution is a great example of how a strong science foundation has helped ensure a steady food supply as the world’s population has grown.

NIFA Signs Pact to Promote and Support U.S.-Israeli Agricultural R&D

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA's rich science and research portfolio.

On November 22, the United States and Israel came one step closer to renewing agricultural research and development activities that could produce new knowledge and innovations beneficial to both countries and increase the economic bottom line for farmers and ranchers.

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Edo Chalutz, executive director of the U.S.–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote collaboration via NIFA among U.S. and Israeli scientists and engineers. BARD and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s intramural research agency, have cooperated on research together since BARD’s inception.

Secretary's Column: As Conferees Convene, Priorities for a Farm Bill

While rural Americans have already waited too long for passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs bill, this week brought a promising new development. Conferees from the Senate and House met to begin work on the creation of a bipartisan, long-term Farm Bill. Their work could not be more timely – and they are in the spotlight now more than ever before.

The Farm Bill is crucial to America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. It provides a necessary safety net for producers centered around a strong crop insurance program and a dependable set of disaster assistance programs. The last two years of drought and other weather-related disasters underscores how important that safety net is to keeping producers in business.

The Farm Bill’s importance extends beyond the farm safety net.

We Still Want to Hear Your #MyFarmBill Stories!

As we get back to work following the lapse in appropriations, USDA remains focused on sharing the importance of Farm Bill programs for all Americans. A Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is critical to growing the rural economy, providing nutrition to families in need, strengthening agricultural research, growing a biobased economy and much more.

Now that we’re back to work, our #MyFarmBill social media campaign is ramping back up, and we need to hear from you! We’re asking agriculture and rural stakeholders from across the nation to continue sharing stories on how #MyFarmBill impacts you – using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other tools. Your input will build on the incredible response we’ve already seen – videos, photos and tweets that you can view here.