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8 Coda The future direction of agricultural research will be challenging. The increased economic, social, and ecologic demands on agriculture generate a com- plex environment for research planning. Although those demands create the opportunity for enhanced social return from agricultural research, they will also tax the ability of the system in many dimensions. There will be trade-offs among research goals that must be addressed with inadequate resources. There will be conflicting signals from traditional and new stakeholders in the agricultural research system. Sometimes research will be called on to resolve trade-offs or perceived trade-offs among the various demands on the agricultural system. Research may also be recruited to mitigate the unforeseen impacts of food and agricultural policies. To meet new demands, established processes and partner- ships in agricultural research must evolve without losing their unique value. Those tensions in the research agenda can be managed only through sustained vision, leadership, and political will. The committee does not underestimate the magnitude of challenges or obstacles in addressing the new demands. In preparing this report, we moved from identifying research frontiers to considering research institutions and processes that will support research at the frontier. As we have shown, much progress has been made in moving forward to address the frontiers and to embrace institutional change, but much remains to be done. Nevertheless, the committee sees many indicators that the vision outlined in this report is feasible. As this report goes to press, new farm legislation has just been enacted. The research title shows some new initiatives congruent with our vision. Authorized increases in competitive-grants programs which may not necessarily be real- ized signal the perceived value of a flexible, cutting-edge research program that 169
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170 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH addresses problems of national importance. New mandates and in some cases new funding are identified for biosecurity, biotechnology risk assessment, and organic farming. A new system for recognizing and rewarding scientific excel- lence has been created. And, in addition to those items in the new legislation, new coalitions of stakeholders are forming to carry their research demands to Congress. Clearly, many of the frontiers identified in this report are receiving increased congressional attention. Yet many of the changes identified by the committee are within the purview of existing budgets and institutional authority and need not wait for congressional action. The vision in this report can be embraced at all levels of the agricultural-research system. As elements of the premier agricultural-research system on the globe, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its partners have been widely emulated. The increasingly international character of research benefits means that USDA's future choices will have global consequences. Partners in the research effort are increasingly diverse and far-flung, and how USDA chooses to partner with other institutions will provide models for global collaboration. USDA can lead the way for institutional change that responds to new demands on the agricultural system.
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