(Posted Tue. Nov 22nd, 2011)

Nov. 22: The National Corn Growers Association actively defended the importance of publicly funded research into corn last week to a panel of industry stakeholders tasked with discussing the future of federally funded agricultural research programs. Noting that corn is not only the largest crop in the United States but also a major export product, NCGA staff defended against calls to kill public funding for corn research, stressing the importance of public research that generates ideas, encourages collaboration and confirms the internal findings of private companies.


“Corn is too valuable of an asset to our country for publicly funded research to cease,” said NCGA Director of Research and New Uses Dr. Richard Vierling. “Halting this important, unbiased source of data would be disastrous for the future of the industry and deeply injurious to the future of the country. Right now, we still have an advantage in production agriculture. It is an edge we cannot afford to lose in the way we have already lost so many others.”


Vierling participated in this panel discussion during the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service National Project 301 on Plant Genetics Resources stakeholder meeting. Held every five years, stakeholders involved with NP 301, the largest national program in ARS, explored effects budgetary constraints might have upon the program.


In 2010, National Project 302 Microbial Genetic Resources was rolled into NP 301, thus making the project even larger. Now, USDA ARS expect funding levels to decrease by $53 million in the coming year. In response, the agency will close ten research locations.


Following the panel discussion, attendees participated in breakout sessions focusing on areas in which the USDA needs to improve. Groups suggested the agency should improve in a number of areas including: fostering greater innovation; improving the nutritional value of crops; improving germplasm; increasing access to high-throughput genotyping and phenotyping; increasing inter-agency collaboration; increasing engagement with the industry; more vigorously pursuing the translational utilization of genomic information; improving data base management, particularly for minor crops; amplifying communications and outreach efforts; providing better training for plant breeders; and, beginning to look for resistant strains of crop for diseases not yet in the United States.