Opinion: Move over physics—for the new administration, ag science must now lead the way

This op-ed was originally published on Agri-Pulse and was written by Nicholas Goeser and Tom Grumbly. It has been reprinted with permission.

The new administration of the president elect will break from tradition in many obvious ways—but some of the most important changes will take place under the radar. One that no one is talking about yet is the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

This relatively obscure appointee holds the power to coordinate and shape policy across Federal agencies, and the Director is also traditionally the chief Science Advisor to the President. Historically, this position has been held by physicists. This made sense in the 20th century when America’s most consequential scientific accomplishment was sending men to the moon and our most terrifying threat was the nuclear bomb.

Today, however, genomics is the cutting edge of science – the developers of genome editing won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and humanity’s most pressing, existential threat is climate change. To effectively advise on the most important challenges of the 21st century, not only climate change, but the interconnected issues of global health, mass migration, food production, and environmental protection, President-Elect Biden will need a Science Advisor with deep knowledge of the life sciences—especially agriculture, the linchpin of America’s fight against climate change. 

Agricultural and forest soils have the potential to sequester enough carbon to make our entire country carbon neutral, if not a carbon sink. In addition to curbing greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture science is needed to address the devastating effects of climate change’s initial stages. U.S. farmers and ranchers need tools to deal with droughts, heavy rains, and warming trends that bring new pests and diseases. 

Current science is far ahead of practice when it comes to on-farm carbon sequestration and climate resilience. Federal and state policies often fail to encourage best practices, and lawmakers do not provide sufficient funding for the cooperative extension programs that disseminate new innovations. 

Read the rest of the op-ed on Agri-Pulse.

About the Authors:

Nicholas Goeser, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America

Tom Grumbly, President, The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation

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