Friday, May 02, 2008

BARC & NAL: National Security and the Presidential Election

Below is a copy of a message sent to the three major political candidates for President of the United States of America. Somehow, the idea that food is a national security issue needs to be brought to the forefront of our presidential debate. The work of USDA at BARC, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and other ARS sites, and the information collected and distributed by NAL, the National Agricultural Library needs recognition at a national level. We need safe food, and a strong production, unless we think that we should send our food production off shore and depend on the largess of others.
The science of food production and safety needs national attention. Pests which eat our food drive up costs. Invasive species, mammals, fish, insects, fungi, diseases and other organisms, which include weeds, compete for resources limiting production. Climate change demands new crop varieties. cultivars and strains. When we add bio-fuels to the mix, knowing what we are doing becomes critical in policy making. Food safety is expected, and the science at BARC leads the way, assuming we do not let the funding disappear and the work migrate to India, China, Europe, Russia or other quite capable societies.
We can, of course, let other countries pick up the work that for almost a century has come from BARC and ARS, and buy our crucial information from foreign libraries. We can say that everything we need to know us found on “Google”, and pay the price tomorrow of our confusing information with knowledge. If we think it a challenge to depend on foreign fuel supplies, wait until we can not feed ourselves, because we have let the science of agricultural wilt upon our inaction.
I hope that someone connected to the campaigns might actually answer, but I have low expectations. If you can help get an answer from the candidates, please let me know. Will they support the continuing funding of long term agricultural research at levels that produce world class results as we have done for over a century, or will we simply fade into a second class existence and let others charge us for the privilege of eating? Will we let our natural areas which support free eco-services deteriorate or will we rise to the challenge and support research which will allow us to adapt to growing populations and changes in the environment without loosing our quality of life?
“I am seeking Senator (Clinton, Obama, McCain)’s specific support & position for scientific long term research programs at USDA ARS. . I spend a considerable amount of my time as a volunteer with no financial support trying to get Congress and this administration to fund research in foods, fuels, fibers, flowers and forests, better known as ARS, Agricultural Research Service. ( The US national systematic collections which Homeland security depends upon are in a state of decline, and our food supply as well as our environment is under attack. USDA has long been the recognized leader for the world but now is suffering quick decline; the parasite collection which guarantees your meat is safe from disease is housed in the basement of a 70 year old barn with little to no funding; the scale insect position, scale causing 100’s of millions of dollars damage in North America each year is not vacant with no prospect of filling the position. Research into climate change and its impact on food crops as well as natural resources is scheduled to be quietly reduced because of funding challenges. As Secretary of the US National Invasive Species Advisory Committee, a FACA organization, I am dismayed to find that the US is falling behind in its scientific research in environmental impacts both to natural areas and to our food supply. I would like the opportunity to speak to someone with in the campaign about the candidate’s potential support. I shall be posting this request on my web log this weekend, and will be asking the other two major candidates the same question.”

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