Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Requires Full Funding

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Requires Full Funding

Article excerpt

As they go about helping farmers maintain a consistent, reasonably priced food supply, America's agricultural scientists soon may receive a sign of our country's confidence in their work.

For the first time since Congress created the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, or AFRI, in the 2008 Farm Bill, President Barack Obama has recommended the program be given full funding of $700 million. AFRI is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In last year's budget, AFRI was funded for $350 million, the highest it has been in its eight years of existence.

The time is right to increase funding to the full $700 million. Estimates for 2050 indicate the world's population will approach 10 billion people, about 3 billion more than we have today.

Fully funding AFRI is crucial in order to address growing global food demands, support a workforce that will identify solutions to complex agricultural challenges and strengthen economies locally and nationally.

The big picture is to produce food that is safe and affordable. That's it. American farmers are feeding the U.S. population, but our country is a heavy exporter of agricultural products, so we're feeding portions of the world, as well.

To feed 10 billion people, experts predict that the world's farmers will have to produce as much food over the next 35 years as we have produced in the entire history of mankind, and we will have to do it in a way that protects natural resources. We simply can't wait any longer to meet this challenge.

Our world is in need of new scientific breakthroughs in food safety, nutrition, crop and livestock production and more to offset issues such as emerging animal and plant diseases, foodborne pathogens, children's health risks, climate change and many others.

In 2012, Kansas State University received a grant for $25 million through AFRI to focus on preventing the incidence of Shiga toxin- producing E. coli, or STEC, in beef, a group of bacteria that cause more than 265,000 infections in the U.S. each year.

The project includes more than 50 collaborators at 18 universities and government agencies, and testing in real-life settings with industry partners. …

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