Board News

NEW BOARD NEWS - Summer 2015

 

Recent Academies Reports

 

A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System

This report from the Academies’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) and Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR) report “proposes an analytical framework as a tool for decision makers, researchers and other stakeholders to examine the possible impacts of interventions and evaluate the collective health, environmental, social, and economic outcomes of specific changes in the food system. The framework provides a conceptual and empirical structure consisting of four principles and six steps”.

The report characterized the food system as a complex adaptive system and made seven conclusions:

  1. Comprehensive studies of food systems that use all principles of the committee’s framework are rare in the published literature. 
  2. Studies that consider the entire food supply chain and address multiple domains (and dimensions) of effects of an intervention and its driver(s) can identify outcomes and trade-offs overlooked in more narrowly focused assessments. 
  3. Policies or actions that aim for outcomes in one domain of the food system (e.g., health) can have consequences not only in the same domain but also in other areas (e.g. environmental, economic and social domains). 
  4. The data and methodologies used to study the food system have been collected and developed both by public and private initiatives, depending on the questions being asked. 
  5. Stakeholders are important audiences of any assessment exercise, but also play an important role throughout the process. 
  6. Even though major improvements in the U.S. food system have resulted from introduction of new technologies, needed future improvements are likely to require more comprehensive approaches that incorporate non-technological factors. 
  7. To discover the best solutions to these problems, it is important not only to identify the effects of the current system but also to understand the drivers (e.g., human behavior, markets, policy) and how they interact.
Recognizing the challenges related to global food security, a National Academies committee prepared a report to identify critical areas of research and development, technologies, and resource needs for research in the field of animal agriculture, both nationally and internationally. The committee sought to emphasize the importance of research that can help increase productivity sustainably and efficiently. Overarching recommendations (shortened for brevity) are:
  1. To achieve food security, research efforts should be improved through funding efforts that instill integration rather than independence of the individual components for the entire food chain.
  2. Continuing the research emphasis on improving animal productivity is necessary; however, concomitant research on the economic, environmental and social sustainability nexuses of animal production systems should also be enhanced.
  3. There is a need to revitalize research infrastructure (human and physical resources), for example, through a series of strategic planning approaches, developing effective partnerships and enhancing efficiency.
  4. Socioeconomic/cultural research is essential to guide and inform animal scientists and decision makers on appropriately useful and applicable animal science research as well as communication and engagement strategies to deal with these extensive challenges.
  5. For research in sustainable intensification of animal agriculture to meet the challenge of future animal protein needs, it is necessary to effectively close the existing communication gap between the public, researchers and the food industries.
  6. The U.S. should expand its involvement in research that assists in the international development on internationally harmonized standards, guidelines, and regulations related to both the trade in animal products and protection of the consumers of those products.

 

Recently Released Reports on Food and Agriculture

 

Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food to Improve Global Nutrition

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) issued its annual report in the Spring of 2015 with a focus on the importance of nutrition to global food security. The report emphasizes that food systems can play a key role in improving global nutrition by driving economic growth while delivering healthier diets for billions of farming households; that the global food system can reduce food waste and want, while increasing food safety; and improving nutrition through the agriculture and food system is in the interest of the United States.

 

The report lays out four key actions that can be taken by the U.S. government—in partnership with researchers, business and civil society—to leverage the agriculture and food sectors to improve nutrition and offers four specific recommendations:

  1. Strengthen the policies to support nutrition-sensitive food systems. 
  2. Expand the research agenda for nutrition-sensitive food systems.
  3. Prepare the next generation of leaders in food and nutrition security. 
  4. Develop public-private partnerships to support nutrition-sensitive food systems. 

Following the release of this report in April 2015 the CCGA has been highlighting the report’s recommendations in a new post weekly on the Global Food for Thought blog (www.thechicagocouncil.org/blog).

 

The State of Food Insecurity in the World- Meeting the 2015 international hunger targets: taking stock of uneven progress

This joint annual report of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and WFP (World Food Programme) assesses the progress made toward achieving internationally established hunger targets, and reflects on what needs to be done, in transitioning to the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. Key findings are summarized, briefly:

  1. Based on latest estimates, about 795 million people remain undernourished globally down 176 million over the last decade, and 216 million lower than in 1990-92. This means that approximately one in nine persons in the world are currently unable to consume enough food to conduct an active and healthy life. 
  2. Approximately 780 million people, or the vast majority of the hungry, live in the developing regions. 
  3. 2015 marks the end of the monitoring period of the World Food Summit (WFS) and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) hunger targets.
  4. Wide differences persist across regions. 
  5. A total of 72 developing countries of the 129 monitored have reached the MDG hunger target. 
  6. Most countries that have achieved the international hunger targets enjoyed stable political conditions and economic growth, accompanied by sound social protection policies targeted towards vulnerable population groups. 
  7. In several countries that have failed to reach the international hunger targets, natural and human-induced disasters or political instability have generated protracted crisis, which has prevented the protection of vulnerable population groups and the promotion of income opportunities for all.

Research & Innovation: Strengthening Agricultural Research

The most recent of these reports comes from AGree with recommendations focused on improving how the public-funded U.S. research and innovation system works – or should work – rather than specifying the research questions it should address. The recommendations suggest ways to improve its ability to engage multiple stakeholders and transdisciplinary research expertise, use competitive mechanisms to spark innovative thinking as well as support long-term research focused on slow-emerging phenomena and systems-based issues, and apply sound performance criteria to assess whether results anticipated are achieved and used. Specifically, the recommendations, summarized briefly are:

  1. Advocate for increased Congressional oversight of the U.S. agricultural research enterprise. 
  2. Strengthen the role of the USDA Chief Scientist to help ensure the U.S. continues to serve as a global leader on food and agriculture research and innovation. 
  3. Make data, information, and findings from publically-funded research accessible. 
  4. Integrate research, education and extension activities to promote coordination across each of these three interconnected elements at the university level. 
  5. Review and reset publically-funded research priorities periodically, employing a transparent process with input from multiple stakeholders and end users to ensure that funds are directed toward the most relevant and high impact areas. 
  6. Target public research funding to areas unlikely to be addressed by private industry. 
  7. Scrutinize and modernize federal funding mechanisms for public research, education and extension to foster innovation and maximize public benefits. 
  8. Maintain U.S. leadership and engagement in international food and agricultural research. 
  9. Minimize duplicative efforts and unnecessary costs by assessing the value added from existing research infrastructure and improving grant monitoring and tracking systems to ensure that resources are well spent. 

Also, Agree offers a three-point implementation plan to address their recommendations:

  1. Convene a diverse coalition of leaders, including those not traditionally involved in agricultural policy dialogues, to identify and advocate for fundamental, long-term changes to the public food and agricultural research enterprise.
  2. Mobilize specific constituencies and build partnerships to shape and advocate for near-term changes to the U.S. food and agricultural research enterprise and USDA’s REE mandate and practices. 
  3. Strengthen the ability of the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill, to effectively engage multiple stakeholders in identifying research priorities and support public-private partnerships.

 

NEW STUDY COMMITTEE NEWS


GE Crop Study

The study examining Genetically-Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects has moved into its deliberative phase. The committee will be sorting through all that it has heard in open meetings and webinars (all recorded and viewable HERE, a great learning resource) along with the literature for several months. The report is expected to be anonymously peer reviewed later this year. For notifications about the study, sign up HERE.

 

Brucellosis: 

The study examining Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area will hold its next meeting near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on September 15-16. A portion of the meeting will be open to the public. To receive information about how to attend (or listen in by webex) , sign up for study updates HERE.

 

PREVIOUS UPDATES (03/2015)

 

Bi-Annual BANR Meeting

Although funding constraints prevented the Board from meeting in person this Fall, in October the members of BANR took the opportunity to use new desktop videoconferencing software that we expect will become a more common practice for all of us in the future. The format allowed presenters to share their desktops and to see each other on our computer screens (at least those of us using webcams). BANR viewed two presentations on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones): one highlighting their multiple uses for agriculture (considered to be the largest prospective market) and another on the evolving, and currently uncertain, regulatory regime surrounding their use. This is a topic that might be suitable for a future BANR workshop or study. Jim Duderstadt, former President of the University of Michigan, joined the BANR virtual meeting to discuss another important topic: the future of higher education and research. He described several efforts aimed at bringing about a greater realization in the U.S. that public investment in higher education is critical to the public good, and the norm in societies of the most highly developed countries in the world. He encouraged BANR to pursue its interest in re-envisioning the food and agriculture mission of higher education in conjunction with other activities at the National Academies, and with other partners, such as the APLU.
The Board also discussed the recent report, Spurring Innovations in Food and Agriculture, (the Report on AFRI); a developing initiative on the agricultural workforce; water quality and quantity concerns in agriculture with the Director of the Water Science Technology Board (Jeff Jacobs) and new BANR studies on Brucellosis in greater Yellowstone area and a BLM study for wild horse contraceptives as well as an update on the Agricultural Innovation Prize.

Although funding constraints prevented the Board from meeting in person this Fall, in October the members of BANR took the opportunity to use new desktop videoconferencing software that we expect will become a more common practice for all of us in the future. The format allowed presenters to share their desktops and to see each other on our computer screens (at least those of us using webcams). BANR viewed two presentations on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones): one highlighting their multiple uses for agriculture (considered to be the largest prospective market) and another on the evolving, and currently uncertain, regulatory regime surrounding their use. This is a topic that might be suitable for a future BANR workshop or study. Jim Duderstadt, former President of the University of Michigan, joined the BANR virtual meeting to discuss another important topic: the future of higher education and research. He described several efforts aimed at bringing about a greater realization in the U.S. that public investment in higher education is critical to the public good, and the norm in societies of the most highly developed countries in the world. He encouraged BANR to pursue its interest in re-envisioning the food and agriculture mission of higher education in conjunction with other activities at the National Academies, and with other partners, such as the APLU.


The Board also discussed the recent report, Spurring Innovations in Food and Agriculture, (the Report on AFRI); a developing initiative on the agricultural workforce; water quality and quantity concerns in agriculture (with the Director of the Water Science Technology Board, Jeff Jacobs); a new BANR study on Brucellosis in the greater Yellowstone area; a review of proposals for wild horse contraceptives, and an update on the Agricultural Innovation Prize.

 

Workforce Pipeline

BANR continues to pursue opportunities to discuss the workforce needs of the agriculture industry and of academe, most recently participating in a phone call with several CEOs and university administrators.  The next steps are to begin scoping a major workshop on the issue if funding can be raised.

 

Reports Releasing in Early 2015

Two reports in the final stages of review are moving toward release in the New Year. Stay tuned for announcements of the release dates in January.

 

• Committe on Sustainability Considerations for the Animal Agriculture Science Research

 

• Committee on A Framework for Assessing Health, Environmental, and Social Effects of the Food System 

 

 

Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects

The Chairman of the National Research Council (NRC) has provisionally appointed three additional members to the Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects. The new appointees to the committee were identified after the consideration of comments received about the committee composition during the initial public comment period as well as consideration of the full range of expertise and experience needed to address the study’s statement of task.


To clarify the objectives of the study, minor revisions have been made to the statement of task. To view the changes, click HERE


The open session of the second committee meeting of the National Research Council study, "Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects," was held held on Wednesday, December 10, from 10:30am to 6:00pm Eastern. At this meeting, the committee heard from scientists using novel genetic engineering (GE) techniques to introduce new traits into crops and listen to staff from USDA, EPA, and FDA describe their agencies' experience in overseeing GE crop regulation. The committee also heard from representatives of companies that produce GE seeds for commodities (corn, soy, cotton, canola) about a range of issues. An agenda may be found HERE



Evaluation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs)

A new, congressionally-requested NRC study to examine the merits and accomplishments of the Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) program is about to get underway.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency, LCCs are “self-directed partnerships between federal agencies, states, tribes, non-governmental organizations, universities, and other entities to collaboratively define science needs and jointly address broad-scale conservation issues, such as climate change in a defined geographic area.” The study will be under the general oversight of BANR’s sister Board, the Board on Atmospheric and Climate, with BANR as a partner.  The first meeting of the committee was held on December 16, 2014.  For more information about the study, click HERE.

 

Review of Proposals to the Bureau of Land Management on Wild Horse or Burro Sterilization or Contraception

Following on a recommendation of the National Research Council (NRC) report, Using Science to Improve the Wild Horse and Burro Program, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) earlier this year issued a request for proposals to develop new methods for contraception of wild horses and burros.  An NRC study committee has been established to review the proposals submitted to BLM.  The committee met in December to deliberate and prepare a letter report of its recommendations to the Bureau.  

 

A Review of the USDA Agricultural and Food Research Initiative

In case you missed the January 9 webinar featuring a discussion of the report with the committee and Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, an archived webcast is available HERE.  Read or download the report HERE.

 

Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle, 8th edition

Provisional members of the recently appointed committee to update the Nutrient Requirements of Dairy met in Washington, DC on September 29-30.  In public session, the committee heard from several of the study sponsors and discussed comments about the new update collected previously by the American Dairy Science Association from its membership.  The study is expected to take two years, with a release date scheduled for late 2016. More information about the study can be found HERE.

 

 

From left to right: Ermias Kebreab, Paul Kononoff, Michael Allen, Michael VandeHaar, Mark Hanigan, Louis Armentano, José Santos

Seated: Gerald Huntington (NRC Consultant), Hélène Lapierre, Richard Erdman (Chair), William Weiss (Vice Chair), Mary Beth Hall, Jeff Firkins


PREVIOUS UPDATES (09/2014)

 

Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle, 8th edition

The NRC Chairman has appointed the members of the committee to prepare an update to the 2001 report on the Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle.  The committee held its first public meeting in Washington, DC in late September or early October where researchers, nutritionists, and other stakeholders can present topics that should be addressed in the new report. The membership of the committee and more information on the study can be found HERE.  

 

Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects

Members of a new study committee were appointed by the President of the National Academy of Science (NAS). The committee will conduct a broad examination of genetically-engineered (GE) crops and food, building on and updating past NRC reports on environmental, public health and other issues.  The first public meeting was held on September 15-16, 2014 in Washington, DC. The list of committee members and a sign-up for study announcements can be found HERE

 

Scoping Meeting on Resistance Management and Weed Summit II: September 10 and 11, 2014

BANR held the second national Summit on Herbicide-Resistance at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, DC on September 10, 2014. A scoping meeting to explore the problem of resistance management more generally was held the following day.  The first national “Weed Summit” was held in 2012. A Proceedings of the 2012 Summit can be found HERE.  

 

PREVIOUS UPDATES (07/2014)


Review of the AFRI Program

The committee examining the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the competitive research grants program administered by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is making final edits to its report on the program in response to  comments received through the Academy’s anonymous report review process.  Assuming the Academy leadership approves the committee’s changes, the report will be ready for release in early September.

 

When the release date is finalized, an announcement will be sent out to BANR newsletter subscribers with more information.  The public release briefing will be conducted as a webinar, so interested parties will be able to see the briefing from their desktop computers.  More information about the study and committee membership can be found HERE.

 

Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle, 8th edition

As of July 1, 2013, the committee preparing an update to the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle has completed all of its meetings and is preparing the report to go into review by mid-August.  Because the document is lengthy and also includes a computer model of beef cattle nutrition, the review and revision process is likely to take several months. Information on the membership of the committee can be found HERE.

 

PREVIOUS UPDATES (12/2013)


Committee on the Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle


(Click picture for more information)

From right to left: Top: Andy Cole, Clint Krehbiel, Ron Lemenager, Galen Erickson
Seated: Joel Caton, Karen Beachemin, Michael Gaylean, Joan Eisemann, Luis Tedeshi
Not Pictured: Terry Engle

 

Committee to Review the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

In open sessions, the committee heard about the origins of AFRI, the current operations of AFRI, the broader picture of competitive grant programs in agricultural research, and other topics.

 

(Click picture for more information)

From left to right: Top: Bert Garza, Gene Hugoson, Jim Carrington, Steve Buccola, Keith Belli, Jim Zuiches, Ronnie Green, Phil Pardey
Seated: Peter Bruns, Machi Dilworth, Vic Lectenberg (chair), Steve Balling, Rosemary Haggett, Bennie Osburn
Not pictured: Sally Rockey, Juliana Ruzante

 

PREVIOUS BOARD MEETING NEWS (12/2013)


The National Research Council (NRC)’s Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR) met in Washington, DC on November 14-15, 2013. The Board explored emerging issues in animal nutrition; revitalizing research universities; crop models, and the PCAST report on Agricultural Preparedness, among other topics.  Joan Guilfoyle, Chief of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro (WH&B) Division, visited with BANR members to describe the agency’s reaction to the recently issued NRC report on using science to improve the WH&B program.


US Forest Service Climate Adviser David Cleaves and Al Sample, President of the Pinchot Institute, talked to BANR about the critical needs for forest management in the face of climate change; World Wildlife Fund’s Jason Clay provided a briefing on the role of aquaculture in a sustainable global food system; Michael  Wolosin from Climate Advisers pitched a possible NRC study on the relationship of U.S. consumption and tropical deforestation; and, Iowa State University’s Micheal Owen discussed efforts underway to address herbicide-resistant weeds.  In the coming weeks, the Board members will develop follow up plans to pursue some of these topics in greater depth. Contact Robin Schoen for more information.

 

The fall meeting of the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR) was held at the National Academies’ Beckman Center in Irvine, CA on October 15-16, 2012.  Board member A.G. Kawamura treated BANR to a local tour. First on the agenda was a High Temperature Fuel Cell Tri-Generation project at the Orange County Sanitation District, featuring a large wastewater digester unit, a high-temperature electric-producing hydrogen fuel cell, and a public filling station for hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles (Irvine, CA is hot bed for test vehicles). Thanks to Dr. Scott Samuelson of the UC, Irvine for being a guide for the group. 

 

The next stop was the Orange County Great Park, a 1,300 parcel of land that once housed El Toro, a Marine Corps Air Station.  The land is gradually being transformed into a large, multi-use, urban park featuring a giant hot-air balloon, athletic fields, and other amenities.  BANR visited the park’s Farm and Food Lab, where school children and the public can learn about the science and practical experience of growing one’s own food.  Among the assortment of themed demonstration plots are several learning stations, including one featuring a solar powered aquaculture-aquaponics unit.  The Farm and Food Lab is maintained by the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners.

 

Finally, the Board viewed the 200 acres of park dedicated to urban agriculture, where beans and other vegetables, organic strawberries, and native plants are being grown on the transformed former runways of the Air Station under the stewardship of Orange County Produce.  

 

A Very Special Thanks to A.G. Kawamura for arranging the tour in Irvine, and to Tom Larson for being our host at the Farm and Food Lab.

 

 

From left to right:  Roger Sedjo, Harold Bergman, Vic Lechtenberg, Kirk Klasing, Peggy Barlett, Norman Scott, A.G. Kawamura, Peggy Tsai, Hal Salwasser, Joan Eisemann, Rick Dixon, Karen Imhof, Robb Johnson, Robin Schoen, Kathy Segerson, Mercedes Vazquez-Anon, Gene Hugoson, Chuck Rice, and our host at the Food and Farm Lab, Tom Larson.