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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding of science and education at Land-Grant College institutions is in transition. The traditional "science pipeline" model linking basic science funding with the application of technology is in question as some policymakers dispute the premise that non-directed science results in benefits to society. Historically, research at USDA and Land-Grant institutions is much more directed than that funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), or Department of Energy (DOE). Nevertheless, there are calls for change at the USDA as well. An approach that both the Congress and the Executive branch are taking seeks to direct research dollars according to predetermined goals. This is being emphasized in part due to budget pressures and may force the system to struggle maintaining funding in constant dollars. Deficit cutters are first considering cutting "earmarked grants" for research and facilities at USDA and Land Grant Institutions. Savings in these categories may help to support modest increases in formula funding and competitive grants. Earmarked grants for research and facilities at the Cooperative State Research Service (CSRS) for Fiscal Year 1993 were approximately 26% of total appropriations and distributed to well over 100 specific line items. This level has increased from approximately 15% of CSRS appropriations in 1985. At the same time formula funding has remained static and competitive grants, although increasing, are below authorized levels. As state and federal budgets face pressure and as concerns from consumer and environmental groups are encountered, balancing the percentage of research dollars devoted to research intended to increase production efficiency and the percentage devoted to meeting concerns about food safety, pesticides, water quality, sustainability, animal welfare, and so on will be a challenge. Linking research priorities with producer and consumer needs will be essential in the 1990s. Food Animal Integrated Research 1995, or FAIR '95, was a good start to a process involving multiple stakeholders and relating research goals to societal benefits from animal agriculture. Maintenance of research relevance and fiscal accountability is essential to avoid becoming non-contributors.
PMID: 7673056 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]