USDA solicits input related to its Agricultural Innovation Agenda

By Erin Voegele | April 01, 2020

The USDA on April 1 published a notice seeking comments on the most important agricultural innovation opportunities to be addressed in the near and long term. The comments will inform research and innovation efforts related to the agency’s Agricultural Innovation Agenda, which was unveiled on Feb. 20.

The Agricultural Innovation Agenda, in part, aims to support renewable fuels, including ethanol, biodiesel and biomass. This includes a goal to achieve market-driven blend rates of E30 by 2050, as well as market-driven demand for biomass and biodiesel.

According to the USDA, the Agricultural Innovation Agenda is comprised of four main components.  The first component is to develop a U.S. agriculture innovation strategy that aligns and synchronizes public and private sector research. The second component is to align the work of the USDA’s customer-facing agencies and integrate innovative technologies and practices into USDA programs. The third component is to conduct a review of USDA productivity and conservation data. The USDA explained it already closely tracks data on yield, but needs to improve its environmental data. Finally, USDA has set benchmarks to hold the agency accountable and help measure progress toward meeting the food, fiber, fuel, feed, and climate demands of the future.

The benchmarks include a goal to increase agricultural production by 40 percent by 2050; build landscape resiliency by investing in active forest management and forest restoration; reduce U.S. food loss and waste by 50 percent by the year 2030; enhance carbon sequestration through soil health and forestry, leveraging the ag sector’s renewable energy to benefit the economy, and capitalization of innovation technologies and practices to achieve a net reduction of the ag sectors carbon footprint by 2050; improve water quality by reducing nutrient loss by 30 percent by 2050; and increasing biofuel production efficiency and competitiveness to achieve market-driven blend rates of 15 percent of transportation fuels by 2030 and 30 percent of transportation fuels by 2050.

To support the initiative, USDA is seeking public and private sector input on the most important innovation opportunities to be addressed in the near and long term. Using the input provided, the USDA said it will identify common themes across the agriculture customer base to inform research and innovation efforts at the agency, the broader public-sector, and the private sector.

The USDA said it has used a 2019 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported titled “Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030" to identify four innovation clusters that present broad potential for transformative innovation. The clusters include genome design, the utilization of genomics and precision breeding to improve traits of agriculturally important organisms; digital/automation, the deployment of field-based sensors to collect real-time information to reduce risk of losses and maximize productivity; prescriptive intervention, the application and integration of data sciences, software tools and systems models to enable advanced analytics for managing the food and agricultural system; and systems based farm management, the leveraging of a systems approach to understand the nature of interactions among different elements of the food and agricultural system to increase overall efficiency, reliance and sustainability of farm enterprises.

The notice includes a series of specific questions commenters are asked to answer regarding their suggestions. Comments are due Aug. 1. Additional information is available on the Federal Register website.