Jennifer Macaulay

The National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research (www.ncfar.org) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, stakeholder-driven coalition of more than 114 members, including the Institute of Food Technologists and 29 other major national food and agriculture organizations and more than 40 universities. National C-FAR was founded on January 30, 2001, to increase and enhance national funding of United States food and agriculture research by doubling federal support over the next five years and to expand the role of stakeholders in priority setting, funding, and accountability.

National C-FAR has been working toward these goals by engaging in various activities including providing testimony and recommendations to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and meeting regularly with administration and congressional staff and members. In addition, the organization’s Research Committee created one-page success stories illustrating the benefit of public investment in food and agricultural research on topics including anthrax, mastitis, penicillin, and witchweed. The organization has also sponsored several stakeholder meetings, and its Legislative Committee meets regularly in Washington, D.C. to discuss strategy. A major accomplishment was the passage of a provision in the 2002 Farm Bill for “doubling of food and agriculture research over the next five years.”

Food and agriculture research has made it possible for the U.S. to lead the way in providing the most nutritious, affordable, and safe food supply. Despite these amazing achievements, new challenges and issues continue to emerge that must be addressed to ensure that our food supply continues in this manner.

National C-FAR has developed a strategic plan to increase awareness for the need to double public funding for food and agriculture research and education. It selected Dittus Communications, a Washington, D.C. public relations firm, to assist in developing an “effective action plan and implementation strategy in support of legislative outreach efforts.” The premise for the initiative was that National C-FAR needed to adopt a “broad long-term perspective that resonated well with other interest groups and served as a catalyst in helping Congress comprehend the benefits of public investment in food and agriculture research and education.”

The strategic plan involves a multi-year, two-phase approach. Phase I will consist of an integrated public awareness campaign to address why there is a need to raise public funding for food and agriculture research. National C-FAR will host a series of high-level, thought leadership “mini summits” in Washington D.C. They will address the benefits and concerns surrounding three broad areas: renewable resources, natural resources, and nutrition and health. Each summit will include 8–15 thought-provoking leaders in a stimulating, private roundtable discussion and debate. As a result of these mini summits, white papers will be released at a national press event to openly discuss the content of the summits and gain public support.

Phase I will also include a special television broadcast that highlights an important issue arising from the summits. The broadcast documentary will look at the issue, explain why there is a critical need, and what the impact of doing nothing will cost.

Phase II will depend greatly on the outcome of Phase I. The concept of phase II is to create a Washington Mall event. The Washington Mall was chosen as a possible location to attract sponsors invited to exhibit their technologies and media and to raise the significance and visibility of the issue. The event would be an interactive demonstration based on the most important issues from the summits in Phase I. This unique event may encourage participants to walk through a sequence of mazes to illustrate how today’s funding priorities influence the future. The objective of the event is to emphasize the demand for greater public awareness by key influencers and policymakers. This compelling experience will hopefully capture the attention of both the public and the media so that food and agriculture research funding becomes an issue of high priority on the national agenda.

This initiative will provide the groundwork to demonstrate why there is such a need for increased agriculture and food research funding. It is National C-FAR’s objective to serve as a catalyst to help others recognize that “food and agriculture is vital to the U.S. and the world. The future of this vital role depends upon an expanded, enhanced, and engaged food and agricultural research system.”

by JENNIFER MACAULAY
IFT Staff Scientist
Office of Science, Communications, & Government Relations
[email protected]t.org