During the 2014 Farm Bill negotiations, the AVMA supported the establishment of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which provides grants to organizations addressing key problems in agricultural research. Now, AVMA is weighing in on research priorities.
At the Oct. 28 FFAR Board of Directors meeting, 11 stakeholder groups, including the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, provided input on the foundation’s initial seven target areas for research:
- enhancing sustainable farm animal productivity, resilience and health;
- improving plant efficiency;
- achieving a deeper understanding of nutrition and healthful food choices;
- managing food production systems to enhance human nutritional outcomes;
- spurring food system innovation;
- optimizing agricultural water use; and
- transforming soil health.
The stakeholder groups urged the FFAR to focus its grants on areas of agriculture research with pressing research needs and opportunities. In particular, the AVMA urged the foundation to include in its target areas research on animal disease and vaccine development for major diseases affecting livestock, including beef and dairy cattle, swine, poultry, small ruminants, aquaculture, as well as horses working on farms and ranches.
“Infectious diseases continue to be a major cause of economic losses to the food animal industry, both directly by affecting the health and productivity of animals, and indirectly by affecting food safety and causing trade restrictions,” said Gina Luke, assistant director of government relations, in remarks delivered on behalf of the AVMA. “Vaccines against several livestock diseases of economic significance are lacking, too costly or only partially effective. Vaccines are the most cost-effective intervention against infectious diseases and become even more important as concerns about antimicrobial resistance increase.”
At the conclusion of the public forum, Dr. Sally Rockey, FFAR executive director, announced the first two inaugural programs: the New Innovator Program and the Rapid Response Program. The New Innovator Program will fund up to 10 outstanding individuals who are early in their faculty careers to pursue innovative research on one or more of the target areas identified by FFAR. The three-year award will allow individuals to be “unfettered” in their pursuit of great science that will have a positive impact on agriculture or food systems.
The Rapid Response Program is designed to address urgent issues in our agriculture and food systems. The foundation believes if an urgent issue emerges that is national in scope, acute in nature and where funds for research and related activities will drive a solution, it can make decisions and issue funds in a matter of weeks. So the decision-making process will fall among a small group of people working in close collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this case, the matching requirement will be a critical element to make or break the program. FFAR must be proactive at attracting the required match so as not to slow down the process.
While FFAR provides the veterinary research community with a new source of grant funding unconstrained from much of the federal bureaucracy, FFAR grants must be matched from a donor or partner. As a nonprofit, FFAR can be nimble, moving rapidly on decision-making and funding mechanisms.
Learn more about the FFAR on its website.