NIFA Listens Talking Points

TALKING POINTS FOR NIFA LISTENING SESSIONS

October-November 2017
Online RSVP/Submission Form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Q6HDGC3

ABSTRACT (For online submission; max. 250 words)
Research funding is vital to the future of the grape and wine industry, and our more than $220 billion economic contribution. Although the USDA is a top public funder for research, its funding has not grown. In real numbers, our nation’s investment in its farms and food is shrinking.

Specialty crops like grapes have been historically underserved by general research funding programs. Vital funding comes from NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBG). And competition is fierce!

But the need and urgency will only accelerate as we seek to make much-needed strides in plant breeding, genetics and genomics to improve plant characteristics and adapt to a changing climate, and race to identify and address threats from pests and diseases.

A lack of labor is a critical threat to the long-term viability of all American crops. With the labor supply reaching crisis levels across our vineyards and farms, research is desperately needed in automation, mechanization and efficiency technologies, not only to address decreases in labor but to enhance the productivity and skills of our existing labor force.

Extension is vital to delivering scientific outcomes to industry, but it has suffered greatly from a lack of funding. Extension appointments are being eliminated or combined across crops such that growers’ needs greatly outweigh agents’ capacity to provide meaningful outreach. Through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and SCRI programs, NIFA has helped to sustain this work. More must be done, lest this function disappear.

FULL TEXT (For speakers’ notes; max. 5 minutes)
The grape industry is the fastest growing specialty crop in the U.S. From wine grapes and table grapes to juice grapes and raisins, grapes have the largest plant value of all specialty crops, especially when the economic impact of wine is included—just announced at roughly $220 billion annually.

Research funding is vital to the future of the grape and wine industry, and our economic contribution. But although the USDA has long been one of the top public funders for research, its funding has not grown. Which is to say that, in real numbers, our nation’s investment in its farms and food is shrinking.

Specialty crops like grapes have been historically underserved by general research funding programs. Vital funding comes from NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBG). And competition is fierce!

But the need and urgency will only accelerate as we seek to make much-needed strides in plant breeding, genetics and genomics to improve plant characteristics and adapt to a changing climate, and race to identify and address threats from pests and diseases.

A lack of labor is a critical threat to the long-term viability of all American crop production. With the farm labor supply reaching crisis levels across our vineyards and farms, research is desperately needed in automation, mechanization and efficiency technologies, not only to address decreases in labor but to enhance the productivity and skills of our existing labor force.

Extension is vital to delivering scientific outcomes to industry. But it has suffered greatly from a lack of funding. Extension appointments are being eliminated or combined across crops such that growers’ needs greatly outweigh agents’ capacity to provide meaningful outreach. Through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and SCRI programs, NIFA has helped to sustain this work. More must be done, lest this function disappear.

As NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy has said, “Funding research to respond to these challenges should be considered as an investment in our nation’s future, an investment that will pay big dividends in the years to come.” Federal funding has certainly helped to improve the competitiveness of U.S. grapes and grape products. We hope to maintain a strong and vibrant connection with NIFA and the USDA in the years to come.