In a report setting the agricultural agenda for President Obama’s second term, the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) calls for the federal perspective on agriculture to be “reimagined” as an “innovation ecosystem”, emphasizing a new vision for science and technology in agriculture and agricultural research in the 21st century.
The report, published in December 2012, urges the President to support a slate of “better information technology capabilities,” sustainable management practices, and more competitive funding for agricultural research. Improving support for science and technology in agriculture, according to the report, will be a key element in creating a “more resilient, more sustainable agricultural system, with benefits shared by all.”
The report identifies seven major challenges for American agriculture, including reducing agriculture’s environmental impact, improving food safety and global food security, using limited resources efficiently, and responding to a changing climate.
Given the gravity and global breadth of these issues, The New York Times noted that “the report also underscores how deeply agriculture meshes with energy, health, environmental and even national security issues.”
Responding to these challenges will require shifting the way we think about food production, towards viewing agricultural technology as part of the solution. Building sustainability and resiliency into our food system invites us to reconsider strategies at every stage, from more efficient funding for research, to more responsible growing practices and more transparent supply chains.
This discussion demonstrates a rising tide of support, at the federal level, for creative solutions to gaps in our food system. While the report rightly acknowledges the complexity of the challenges facing agriculture, its vision for innovating sustainable solutions for agricultural problems is ambitious, pragmatic, and timely.
Download a PDF version of the report here.