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USDA Strategic Plan: USDA Turns to Private Sector to Make a Bold Impact

a photo of a picnic table full of salmon cuts, tomatoes and other healthy food options with an image of the USDA symbol beside them, depicting the reality of the USDA strategic plan

Government research institutions developed a great deal of cutting-edge technology—like the Internet and satellites—over the years. But government researchers know that ‘good ideas’ are not enough. Ideas that sit on the shelf—for the reason that real people aren’t aware of them and there is no one to distribute those great ideas—are wasted opportunities. These days, even the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is aware of the fact that it takes a private business to get mass traction and widespread distribution. To make that happen, it is—in alignment with its USDA strategic plan —taking some of their best ideas and putting them in private hands for maximum impact.

Other Details Related to the USDA Strategic Plan

The USDA is not only about agriculture per se; ultimately, it is about food. The organization conducts research concerning a variety of programs, such as nutritional standards and animal production. In its annual report on technology transfer, the Agriculture Department included 224 new inventions and 109 patent applications for a wide range of products.

USDA Undersecretary Ann Bartuska defines technology transfer as developing a product and then transferring it to somebody who can use it. With 16 agencies, the USDA—in connection to its USDA strategic plan —is also collaborating with the private sector through special agreements. One form of cooperation is the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), which includes patents, licenses and exploratory work. According to the USDA, these technologies have far-reaching applications. The department is also developing its own research on genome sequencing, pest protection, quarantine, infestation tracking, as well as disease transmission. However, given the world’s population problems, the most important agricultural-related research is regarding food—namely, how to create the capability to produce sustainable food sources.

Sustainability is high on the USDA’s priority list with an emphasis on the environment and water quality. Bartuska expects that future reports will dwell on an increase in water use, which is inevitable. The use of various sensor technologies and aerial drones have helped to monitor said water use. As more research is conducted, the effectiveness and efficiency of these technologies will undoubtedly increase.

a photo containing an image of the USDA logo and slices of meat being tested in the background, depicting the USDA strategic plan in action
The most important agricultural-related research is about food—i.e., how to create the capability to produce sustainable food sources.

On the USDA Strategic Plan: Ideas Meet Technology

The various research projects the USDA is currently funding and developing ultimately impact food safety. Their return on investment is something the department is extremely proud of. Based on a USDA analysis, for every dollar invested in research, $20 is returned to the public. This case is only done through the USDA strategic plan of going into various agreements with the universities, research labs, private companies, as well as other government agencies. Cooperative research and development agreements can be transferred to the private sector in the form of licenses. These allow companies to develop products based on USDA research.

To further the success of these cooperative ventures, the private sector can develop products and services that directly benefit the public. At the same time, this scenario also helps promote the “Made in America” theme. With private sector development, the product implementation is faster, all while simultaneously helping to create jobs. With faster implementation, these benefits can be brought to those who need it most, in the shortest possible time, without any risk to the USDA.

A Bold Move for a Bold Impact

Research is not merely a concern for universities or private tech firms. Whether these studies are about bridge sensors, lights to detect Salmonella or even a device to identify bee mites. They may have identified a need. However, the public may disagree and not buy into the product or service. In contrast, agricultural-related research is about food and people. Two aspects of society that will continue to be essential for a viable lifestyle.

The wider these technologies are distributed, the greater the impact will be. With its formulated USDA strategic plan, USDA is taking a bold step in putting these ideas out to the private sector for implementation.

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