chapter begins with brief descriptions of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and NRI priority-setting processes and follows with the committee’s analysis of the NRI process. The committee then analyzes the NRI’s research priorities and offers its own suggestions for research of emerging importance.


Overview of USDA Priority-Setting Process

Comprehensive planning and priority-setting have characterized the USDA Experiment Station System since the early 1980s, with the Joint Council on Agricultural Research, Education, and Extension serving as a mechanism for coordination of participating federal and state partners. The planning and priority-setting process was modified during an agencywide restructuring of USDA in 1995, which created a new USDA National Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee’s role includes the responsibility to oversee and facilitate priority-setting in research and education. The involvement of stakeholders (including research users) that had characterized the priority-setting processes before 1995 was formalized and enhanced by the restructuring legislation.

In response to USDA restructuring and GPRA, the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area of USDA established five goals toward which the planning of research and education programs will be directed and against which program performance will be measured. The goals are intended to bring together the interests of stakeholders in setting priorities by striving for

  • An agricultural production system that is highly competitive in the global economy.

  • A safe and secure food and fiber system.

  • A healthy, well-nourished population.

  • Greater harmony between agriculture and the environment.

  • Enhanced economic opportunity and quality of life for Americans.

Those broad goals were established within the context of food, fiber, and natural-resources research and education. The land grant university colleges of agriculture and other research institutions and agencies are linked to the goals through various funding mechanisms administered by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, one of the four agencies that make up the USDA REE Mission Area.

NRI Priority-Setting Process

Priority-setting at the NRI is broadly shaped by the legislative authority that established the program. The original legislation established six broad NRI

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