A new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) institute for basic research, recommended in a July 2004 departmental task force report, has received widespread support among agriculture interest groups and other stakeholders. Some, however, want to make sure that funding is new and is not siphoned from the USDA budget, or from the budget of an already existing basic science funding body at USDA.

The National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would fund extramural, peer-reviewed basic research, employing a model much like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. NIFA's objectives, according to the report, include: nurturing American agriculture that's more competitive internationally, developing foods that improve health and combat obesity, developing bio-based fuels, and improving food safety by protecting plants from insects, diseases, and bioterrorism.

"The idea is that there needs to be a really big, fairly autonomous institute that isn't subject to all the...

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