Food, health, energy and the environment are among the most vital concerns when it comes to human survival and quality of life. A new report from the Battelle Institute concludes that agriculture and agricultural bioscience provide many opportunities to address those needs. They serve as powerful engines for economic growth and job creation in the U.S.—especially in the nation's 12-state north-central region, which includes Missouri.
"Power and Promise: Agbioscience in the North Central United States" credits the region's land-grant universities, including their Extension Services and experiment stations, with a central role in American agriculture's rise to global preeminence, and argues that continued support for them is vital to competing in the 21st century economy.
While comprising only 21% of U.S. land, the region produces 44% of the nation's agricultural commodities -- including more than 80% of key exports such as soybeans and feed grains, and more than 60% of meat and livestock exports.
More than 300 million acres of cropland, pasture and woodland support a variety of industries within the region, including companies that supply seed, feed and equipment, and businesses that process agricultural outputs or use them to create value-added products.
As of 2009, agriculture and ag-related industries in the north-central U.S. employed almost 2.4 million people—about 10% of the region's private-sector workforce.
"What's surprising is the imbalance between the huge variety of opportunity and the comparatively small amount of federal funding," said Simon Tripp, lead author of the Battelle study. He noted that the National Institute of Food and Agriculture has an annual budget of less than $2 billion, while the National Institutes of Health has a budget of more than $30 billion per year.
"These institutions should be considered priorities for further strategic investment and development," Tripp said. "Sustaining these institutions, further investing in them, and addressing their challenges are of central importance to a sustainable economic future for the United States."
The report cites a number of ongoing benefits of land-grant universities, experiment stations and Extension Services. In Missouri, those benefits include:
• Improving the productivity and profitability of U.S. agriculture by performing and disseminating research in such areas crop and livestock genetics, food safety, biofuels, agroforestry, nutrient management, livestock nutrition and integrated pest management.
• Enhancing health and well-being through research and education on food safety, nutrition, biosecurity and environmental sustainability.
• Generating jobs through business- and economic-development programs.
• Engaging youth in science, engineering and technology through 4-H programs.
• Creating opportunities for farmers and landowners through programs and workshops on production, marketing and sales in such fields as agroforestry, aquaculture, horticulture, viticulture and agritourism.
The full report is available online at nccea.org/documents
The report was commissioned by North Central Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors and the North Central Cooperative Extension Association. The region encompasses the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The Battelle Memorial Institute is a nonprofit research and development organization based in Columbus, Ohio.
Source: MU Cooperative Media Group