A few short weeks from now, in October, the weeklong World Food Prize event will begin in Des Moines, and many of the "Grand Challenges" of agriculture will once again receive welcome attention:
1) A near doubling of the world’s population in the next 40 years.
2) A shrinking supply of arable land, accessible water and non-degraded soils.
3) New virulent pests and diseases, which have the capacity to ravage crop and animal production;.
4) Increasing climate variability, resulting in more difficult growing conditions, greater soil erosion and reduced yields.
Given the severity and increasing immediacy of these well-known grand challenges, you might imagine a significant increase in federal agricultural research funds. If so, you would be wrong.
In 1985, federal agricultural research funds came to $1.9 billion. In 1995, it increased to $2.2 billion. In 2005, it stood at $2.9 billion.
And in 2016, as these grand challenges seem ever more pressing? In 2016, federal ag research funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture...