by the committee in its list of emerging research issues—about 50 issues—this would correspond to about 40 grants awarded each year for each issue (including new submissions, renewals, and re-submissions). The committee believes strongly that an effective issue-based research program in the food, fiber, and natural resources area requires this level of investment.
The committee recognizes that this recommendation would require a major increase in funding for the NRI. To put the recommendation in context, however, it is useful to compare the estimates given above with funding levels for other research programs within USD A and for other federal agencies. For example, in FY 1999 the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s budget was nearly $800 million and USDA formula funds totaled $541 million. NSF’s and NIH’s budgets for FY 2000 are $3.9 billion and $17.9 billion, respectively, and the budget for DOE’s Office of Science for FY 2000 is $2.8 billion, according to a 1999 article in Science. Given these data, the committee does not think it unreasonable to expect that a competitive research program explicitly focused on high-priority issues in food, fiber, and natural resources—essential elements to future national security and stability—be funded at approximately $800 million by 2005. As stated previously, this figure is essentially a re-affirmation of the NRC’s 1989 recommendation to increase competitive research funding at USDA to $550 million.
The committee believes that the recommended increase in funding should take place incrementally as the various changes recommended earlier in this report are put into place. The ability to utilize large amounts of new funding effectively will be compromised unless recommended changes to the priority-setting process and NRI’s organization are implemented.
The committee found the NRI’s current peer-reviewed research to be of high quality and value but believes that much could be done to characterize the quality and value more concretely and to communicate that information to the stakeholders in the NRI better. The committee found the NRI priority-setting process to be lacking. Specific structural changes were recommended to remedy that deficiency.
The committee found that the NRI’s research agenda complements other USDA activities and those of other federal agencies, the states, and the private sector. However, the current size, structure, and diffuse agenda make effective complementarity difficult. The committee recommends changes in process and priority-setting to help buttress this NRI responsibility.
Finally, the committee set forth comprehensive organizational and funding changes so that the NRC’s vision for food, fiber, and natural-resources research could be achieved. A combination of restructuring and substantially increased funding could provide USDA and the nation with the critical fundamental merit-based peer-reviewed research base that will be required to meet the food, fiber, and natural-resources challenges of the 21st century.