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Agricultural Research Service Strategic Plan: 2003-2007
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I am pleased to present the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Strategic Plan 2003-2007. This plan documents how ARS will address and help achieve the Department of Agriculture (USDA) goals to serve the food and agriculture system and other public interests related the environment, food safety, human nutrition, and economic development.

ARS has successfully developed and used a series of strategic and implementation plans over the last 20 years to guide its research program. The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 asks Federal agencies to focus on the long-term outcomes of their work. GPRA also reinforced ARS’ strong commitment to customer service. The new ARS plan meets the GPRA requirements as well as supports the goals contained in the new USDA, Research, Education and Economics mission area strategic plans. Additionally, the ARS plan identifies performance measures that will indicate progress toward the goals and objectives and outlines the specific research activities to be undertaken to address each performance measure. The plan also reinforces ARS’ important National Program structure and accommodates the Program Assessment Rating Tool, which was developed by the Office of Management and Budget to evaluate the effectiveness of Federal programs.

ARS has a long and distinguished history of service to American agriculture. As our world becomes more interdependent, the benefits of ARS research will directly affect producers and consumers in all corners of the globe. This new strategic plan will help us guide our scientific activities and the accompanying transfer of our research products to producers, consumers, action and regulatory agencies, the private sector, and all other customers and stakeholders.

With the continued support of the American people, USDA, the Congress, and our dedicated workforce committed to scientific excellence and public service, we will meet the challenges and opportunities outlined in this strategic plan.

I would like to thank the members of the ARS Budget Team who developed, revised, and finalized this plan. The members were Dwayne R. Buxton, Chair, A. Rick Bennett, Eleanor G. Frierson, Cyril G. Gay, Jeffrey R. Kurtz, Jean A. Larson, Ronald Rosenberg, Eric M. Rosenquist, Jill C. Stetka, Donice C. Stewart, Mark A. Weltz, Richard F. Wilson, and Robert J. Wright. The strategic planning activities were coordinated by David A. Rust, and Sharon P. Brann provided all of the support services required. This important planning process could not have been successfully completed without the conscientious efforts of the entire team.

The ARS Strategic Plan 2003-2007 is also available on the ARS web site; (click on “Research,” open National Programs and look for the heading entitled, “About the Programs.”) ARS will continue to make the annual performance plans and reports, which record progress towards meeting the goals and objectives of the strategic plan, available on the ARS web site.

Acting Administrator




The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the principal in-house research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is one of the four component agencies of the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area. Congress first authorized federally supported agricultural research in the Organic Act of 1862, which established what is now USDA. That statute directed the Commissioner of Agriculture “... To acquire and preserve in his Department all information he can obtain by means of books and correspondence, and by practical and scientific experiments,...” The scope of USDA's agricultural research programs has been expanded and extended more than 60 times since the Department was created. Before the enactment of large-scale crop support and nutrition programs, agricultural research was a substantial part of the Department’s budget. Shortly before World War II, USDA received about 40 percent of all Federal funds appropriated for research. To better support the war effort, the Department’s various research components were brought together into the Agricultural Research Administration (ARA). In 1953, the ARA was reorganized into ARS. In 1995, the National Agricultural Library (NAL) was integrated into ARS.

ARS Approach to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)

Since 1983, ARS has developed a series of multiyear strategic plans to help guide development and management of the agency’s work. In 1993, the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), Public Law 103-62, was enacted. It seeks to make all Federal departments and agencies more programmatically accountable to Congress and U.S. taxpayers. GPRA requires all Federal agencies to integrate strategic planning, budgeting, and performance measurement in order to better account for program results. GPRA compliance is governed by OMB Circular A-11, which states that “the Strategic Plan is a tool to be used in setting priorities and allocating resources consistent with those priorities.”  GPRA also requires agencies to prepare Annual Performance Plans and Annual Performance Reports. The ARS Strategic Plan, covering fiscal years 2003-2007, was developed in accordance with the GPRA requirements.


Leading America towards a better future through agricultural research and information.


ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provide information access and dissemination to:

·         ensure high-quality, safe food, and other agricultural products

·         assess the nutritional needs of Americans

·         sustain a competitive agricultural economy

·         enhance the natural resource base and the environment, and

·         provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.


ARS research is authorized by the Department of Agriculture Organic Act of 1862 (7 U.S.C. 2201 note), Agricultural Research Act of 1935 (7 U.S.C. 427), Research and Marketing Act of 1946 (Pub. L. 79-733), as amended (7 U.S.C. 427, 1621 note), Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 (Pub. L. 95-113), as amended (7 U.S.C. 1281 note), Food Security Act of 1985 (Pub. L. 99-198) (7 U.S.C. 3101 note), Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-624) (7 U.S.C. 1421 note), Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-127), Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 (Pub. L. 105-185), and Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-171).

Statutorily Defined Purposes of Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education

In structuring this Strategic Plan, ARS has carefully crafted its Objectives, Performance Measures, and Actionable Strategies to address all of the applicable statutory provisions in the “Purposes of Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education” as amended by Pub. L. 104-127, Title VIII, Sec. 801, Apr. 4, 1996, 110 Stat. 1156. The “Purposes” are as follows:

The purposes of Federally supported agricultural research, extension, and education are to:

(1) enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. agriculture and food industry in an increasingly competitive world environment;

(2) increase the long-term productivity of the U.S. agriculture and food industry while maintaining and enhancing the natural resource base on which rural America and the U.S. agricultural economy depend;

(3) develop new uses and new products for agricultural commodities, such as alternative fuels, and develop new crops;

(4) support agricultural research and extension to promote economic opportunity in rural communities and to meet the increasing demand for information and technology transfer throughout the U.S. agriculture industry;

(5) improve risk management in the U.S. agriculture industry;

(6) improve the safe production and processing of, and adding of value to, U.S. food and fiber resources using methods that maintain the balance between yield and environmental soundness;

(7) support higher education in agriculture to give the next generation of Americans the knowledge, technology, and applications necessary to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture; and

(8) maintain an adequate, nutritious, and safe supply of food to meet human nutritional needs and requirements.


ARS provides the scientific expertise and library and information services needed to support the work of most of the Department’s action and regulatory agencies and other Federal agencies such as the Departments of State and Energy, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (NIH, FDA, and the CDC), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and some components within the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of the Interior (DOI). The USDA action and regulatory agencies served by ARS include:  Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS); Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); Farm Service Agency (FSA); Food and Consumer Service (FCS); Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS); Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS); Forest Service (FS); Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA); and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The National Agricultural Library, which is part of ARS, supports all USDA agencies.


The future of American agriculture depends on its ability to respond to critical external factors.

ARS will take these factors into consideration in establishing and executing its research mission.


The globalization of all aspects of the food and fiber system is having a major impact on American agriculture. From competitive markets around the world to diseases that know no national boundaries to population growth and evolving diets, we are seeing profound changes worldwide. These changes have led to a dramatically new trade environment, threats of exotic diseases and pests to domestic production, and international controversies over the use of biotechnology. To remain competitive, the food and agriculture sector needs to take these developments into consideration.


The explosion of information technology, the worldwide use of the Internet, and the major advancements of cyberspace communications are changing the way private industry, government, and individuals conduct daily business. Vast amounts of information are available in real time, more people from around the world will be able to retrieve this information, and advanced computer software and the application of the principles of information organization and management will increasingly make this information more useful and meaningful. This includes making information available in languages other than English and targeting specific audiences in order to maximize the effective use of the products of agricultural research. These advancements in communications technology offer opportunities for everyone involved in the U.S. food and agriculture enterprise.


It is important to hire and retain a highly skilled and technically adept Federal workforce. The relatively low U.S. unemployment rate makes recruitment highly competitive. This competitive environment is expected to require more employer emphasis on recruitment, retention, student employment, upward mobility, and training/retraining programs. ARS will need to enlist a diversity of people to maintain a highly qualified and technically competent workforce. Expanding job opportunities for women and minorities in science and engineering will help tap the Nation’s human potential.


Advances in technology—such as genomics and proteomics, bioengineering, precision agriculture, remote sensing, information technology, and decision modeling—can transform agricultural production, nutrition, environmental protection, and food safety. Biotechnology offers great promise for increasing production efficiency, improving food quality, and enhancing nutritional value. Despite high rates of acceptance in the United States, concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) abroad have had a marked impact on international exports of commodities and continue to prompt questions about the potential benefits and risks. Research on precision agriculture, remote sensing, and decision modeling will increase production efficiency and mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture. To ensure food safety, research is necessary to develop new rapid detection technologies that will make our safe food supply even safer.


Growing global populations, demographic changes, and economic growth will substantially increase the demand for agricultural products and create new markets for American products. At the same time increased agricultural efficiency in other countries will force U.S. agriculture to be more competitive. Because arable agricultural land is limited, these growing demands will increase the need for research to maximize yields, protect marginal areas from unsustainable development, and minimize the harmful effects of agriculture on the environment and the natural resource base.


Growing concern about the impact of emissions of greenhouse gases on the Earth’s surface and atmosphere has prompted policy discussions and international negotiations. Specific concerns have been raised about the effects of global climate change on agriculture and the effects of agriculture on global climate change. In response, ARS will conduct research on the potential for reducing emissions from agricultural production, increasing carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, and adapting current agricultural practices to a changing environment.


The structure of the food and fiber system—from farm to market—changed dramatically in the last decades of the 20th century. Continued change is likely. An increasing share of U.S. food and fiber is being produced on fewer, larger, and more specialized farms. Similar change can be seen across the food and agriculture sector. Firms are larger, and production methods are more specialized. Production and marketing are more vertically and horizontally integrated. Concentration—characterized by sharp declines in the number of buyers or sellers of a product—is greater. Consumer preferences, new technology, and global markets drive continuing change, affecting farmers, processors, marketers, and consumers.


Concern about the growing threat of biological terrorism has given rise to Government-wide efforts to prevent such an activity before it occurs and plan appropriate responses should it occur. ARS seeks to better understand and characterize selected pathogens that could be used as a threat to the Nation’s food supply. This research will be used to protect the U.S. agricultural production system from an act of biological terrorism.


The ability of ARS to respond to the many and diverse needs of producers and consumers is determined largely by the level of funding provided by Congress. As a consequence of inflation and the higher operating costs associated with advances in research equipment and techniques, the ARS scientific workforce, which reached a maximum of about 3,400 scientists in 1970, declined to about 1,700 scientists in the mid-1990s. Recently that trend has been reversed, and ARS has about 2,100 scientists today. Because of widespread concern about managing the Federal deficit, maintaining the long-term viability of the Social Security Trust Funds, and other mandatory programs, future discretionary budgets, including ARS’, are expected to remain relatively tight.


A listing of ARS’ customers, beneficiaries, stakeholders, and partners is shown below. Although composition of the list changes, it gives an indication of the breadth of ARS’ customer base. Sometimes an organization can be, at the same time a customer, beneficiary, stakeholder, and partner in any combination.

Beneficiaries—Individuals whose well-being is enhanced by the agency’s activities.

Domestic consumers/general public
Foreign consumers of U.S. agricultural exports and technologies

Customers—Individuals or organizations that directly use ARS products or services.

Producers (farmers, growers, and ranchers) and processors

National and international organizations
Advocacy groups
Commodity and futures markets
International trade organizations
International science and research organizations

Legislative Branch

Executive Branch

U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Other mission areas
  • Action and regulatory agencies
  • Office of Budget and Program Analysis
  • Inspector General
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Chief Information Officer

Other Federal agencies
Scientific community
Academic and educational community
Medical community
Health and dietary community
Environmental community
State and local governments
News media
Information professionals and library communities  

Stakeholders—Organizations or individuals that have an interest in the work of ARS but do not directly use the agency’s products.

Legislative branch
Executive branch
ARS employees

National and international organizations
Producer and processor organizations
Food and commodity organizations
Foreign countries/governments
Trade organizations
Environmental organizations
Retail organizations
Consumer organizations

Partners—Organizations that ARS works with collaboratively.

Institutions of higher education
Federal research agencies
State research agencies
Private industry
Library communities
International organizations

Measuring Research

In developing the ARS strategic plan, the agency identified several reasons why it is extremely difficult if not impossible to apply numerical measures to research, especially basic research. For example

·         the outcomes/impacts of research are difficult to identify and measure in advance
·         the value of knowledge gained is not always immediately recognized
·         results are not always predictable
·         there is a high percentage of negative determinations or findings
·         the unknown cannot be measured

For these reasons and after earlier efforts to use numerical metrics proved unsatisfactory, ARS decided to use a narrative approach to describing its accomplishments.


The ARS plan was developed, revised, and finalized exclusively by Federal employees after extensive consultation with ARS customers, stakeholders, and partners.

Strategic Plan

The Structure of the ARS Strategic Plan

Goals and Explanatory Statements

The ARS Strategic Plan is focused on achieving five broad Goals, which are taken directly from the USDA Strategic Plan and the REE Mission Area Strategic Plan. These five Goals are expressions of long-term, desirable societal results towards which the work of the agency is ultimately directed. Under each Goal is a brief explanatory statement that describes how ARS interprets and relates the Goal to the work of the agency.


Each Goal has several objectives that more precisely focus on the mission and work of ARS. ARS derives the substance of some of its objectives from the USDA and REE Strategic Plans, while others are tailored to meet the specific research mission of the agency. The Objectives, Performance Measures, and Actionable Strategies also incorporate the aims of the “Purposes of Agricultural Research, Education, Extension, and Education” set forth in section 801 of the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act of 1996.

Performance Measures

The performance measures describe specific measurable achievements that indicate progress towards reaching the broader objectives and goals. In each annual performance plan, the agency will identify specific performance indicators and anticipated outcomes that will, if accomplished, measure progress towards achieving the objectives and goals. Each Performance Measure also establishes a baseline and anticipates a target to be reached by 2007.

Actionable Strategies

A list of some of the specific research activities that ARS anticipates conducting during the next 5 years to address each Performance Measure.


Expanding markets for agricultural products is critical to the long-term economic health and prosperity of our food and agricultural sector. U.S. farmers have a wealth of natural resources, cutting edge technologies, and a supporting infrastructure that result in a production capacity beyond domestic needs. This capacity can be used to expand global markets and in the development of new uses for agriculture in industrial and pharmaceutical markets.

ARS will conduct research and transfer technologies designed to generate new knowledge; increase productivity; improve production systems; enhance resource efficiencies; improve processing quality, performance, and value of commodities; and develop technologies to reduce non-tariff trade barriers. The national needs for scientific agricultural information will be met in a timely manner. U.S. agricultural producers and processors of all sizes will have access to current knowledge and technologies. Because trade issues are global, ARS will expand collaboration with foreign research institutions. The outcomes will be technologies and practices that encourage trade in agricultural products and mitigate non-tariff barriers to such commerce.

Objective 1.1:  Provide the Science-Based Knowledge and Technologies To Generate New or Improved High Quality, Value-Added Products and Processes To Expand Domestic and Foreign Markets for Agricultural Commodities.

Intense competition in the global marketplace and pressure on U.S. farm policy to reduce price supports emphasize the need for U.S. agriculture to pursue and market higher value agricultural products. U.S. renewable agricultural and forestry resources provide an abundant source of raw material for value-added food, fiber, industrial products, and fuels. ARS can make important contributions in developing new and improved value-added products from U.S. agriculture through research and development and effectively demonstrating and transferring to customers the knowledge necessary to provide new marketable agricultural products, generate new uses, implement value‑added processes, and effect product quality enhancements.

New products, new uses, and value‑added processes that appeal to consumers will create additional demand‑driven need for agricultural production, thus providing more opportunities for agricultural producers and businesses. Biobased technologies promise new opportunities for energy, industrial, and pharmacological markets for U.S. farmers. New markets are emerging for environmental activities and products that mitigate environmental concerns. The cornerstones for all of these advances are the timely, relevant, and quality research activities that form the foundation on which new products are developed and the outreach activities that help establish these new products in both the domestic and foreign marketplace.

Performance Measures

1.1.1:    Develop cost effective and functional industrial and consumer products from agricultural and forestry resources.

Baseline:    2002 – Biobased products represent a small fraction of the market for industrial products. Performance of biobased products is uncertain. Some biobased products are not economically competitive with petroleum-based products.

Target:    2007 – Functional performance of biobased products that is similar to or superior to petroleum-based products. Cost parity between biobased products and petroleum-based products. Significantly improved penetration of markets for products traditionally made from petrochemicals with biobased products. Enhanced markets for agricultural products and residues. Stimulation of economies, especially in rural areas.

1.1.2:    Provide higher quality, healthy foods that satisfy consumer needs in the United States and abroad.

Baseline:    2002 – Many agricultural products are marketed as low-value commodities. Harvested commodities often suffer large postharvest losses due to spoilage or damage during handling. Healthy foods are often not convenient to consumer and/or are not highly acceptable to significant numbers of consumers. Many foreign markets are closed to U.S. commodities because of quarantines erected by other countries.

Target:    2007 – Export higher value food crops and products. Extend quality and shelf life of fresh and minimally processed foods. Provide consumers with convenient, highly acceptable, healthy foods. Quarantine issues are resolved, and foreign markets are opened.

1.1.3:    Improve efficiency and reduce cost for conversion of biomass to energy.

Baseline:    2002 – Biofuels are currently not economically competitive with petroleum fuels. Biomass is difficult to convert into fermentable sugars. Biodiesel quality factors need improvement.

Target:    2007 – Produce biofuels with life cycle benefits similar or superior to petroleum fuels. Improved conversion of recalcitrant biomass to fermentable sugars. Biodiesel quality similar to or superior to petrodiesel.

Actionable Strategies

  •   Identify attributes that define quality of these biobased products.

  •   Improve understanding of relationship between composition, component molecular structure, and physical structure and end-use quality and function.

  •   Assess quality trends and needs of biobased products in global markets.

  •   Develop rapid, non-destructive methods for detection and measurement of physical/chemical quality attributes and quality defects.

  •   Determine influence of preharvest factors on quality, including genetics, production practices, and environment.

  •   Determine influence of postharvest factors on quality, including storage, handling, and processing.

  •   Enhance intrinsic product quality and consistency.

  •   Develop commodity treatments or other technology to rid commodities of quarantined pests.

  •   Identify and characterize functional compounds and components in agricultural commodities and their byproducts.

  •   Identify attributes that define quality of food products.

  •   Improve understanding of relationships between composition, component molecular structure, physical structure and end-use quality, function, and sensory characteristics.

  •   Assess quality trends and needs of food products in global markets.

  •   Develop rapid, non-destructive methods for detection and measurement of physical/chemical quality attributes and quality defects.

  •   Develop automated high-throughput-on-line grading, sorting, and packaging systems for food products.

  •   Determine influence of preharvest factors on quality, including genetics, production practices, and environment.

  •   Determine influence of postharvest factors on quality, including storage, handling, grading, and processing.

  •   Evaluate effects of safety and environmental protocols on quality of foods.

  •   Improve storage technologies that maintain quality and nutrition and increase shelf life.

  •   Enhance nutritional value of agricultural products.

  •   Identify and characterize functional compounds and components in agricultural commodities and their byproducts.

  •   Develop functional food ingredients and/or products.

  •   Enhance intrinsic product quality and consistency.

  •   Identify and characterize byproduct components to produce potential value-added products.

  •   Improve fundamental knowledge of the relationship between feedstock composition and functionality.

  •   Alter traditional unit operations, develop new ones, and increase process conversions for biomass to ethanol.

  •   Select and engineer enzymes with the capacity to convert starch and recalcitrant biomass into fermentable sugars.

  •   Develop higher-valued, new co-products and/or improve existing ones from the non-starch portion of grain feedstock, resulting in a reduced net cost of the starch used for producing ethanol.

  •   Improve cold start-up and operability, identify and reduce harmful exhaust emissions (e.g., nitrogen oxides), develop a rapid and low-cost fuel quality test.

  •   Reduce feedstock and formulation costs for biodiesel from agricultural fats and oils.

    Objective 1.2:  Contribute to the Efficiency of Agricultural Production Systems.

    Intense competition in global markets and pressure on U.S. farm policy to reduce price supports emphasize the need for American agriculture to pursue and market higher value agricultural products. Research must respond to consumer demands for more healthful and safe products to ensure a sustainable and profitable agricultural production system that capitalizes on an abundant source of raw material for value-added food, fiber, and industrial products. These superior technologies must effectively differentiate U.S. agricultural products from competing sources and provide customers with value-added processes that enhance product quality.

    ARS will develop and disseminate science-based information to provide U.S. producers of agricultural products with increased flexibility to effectively manage unforeseen risks that affect profitability and product quality. U.S. agricultural production and marketability is constantly influenced by factors such as unpredictable weather, disease and pest outbreaks, and changing consumer demands. Use of genetically diverse germplasm resource collections and best management practices requires research that helps improve production efficiency and productivity through the development of pest resistant varieties and information to facilitate decision-making.

    Performance Measures

    1.2.1:    Provide producers with scientific information and technology that increase production efficiency, develop improved germplasm, safeguard the environment, improve animal well-being, and reduce production risks and product losses.

    Baseline:    2002 – Key animal production systems have been identified and research is being conducted that will lead to more efficient production techniques that safeguard the environment and reduce production risks.

    Target:    2007 – Specific information and technology will be available to food animal producers for evaluating animal productivity and well-being, increasing efficiency, and decreasing environmental impact through improved management models and reproduction methods.

    1.2.2:    Develop needed information on the relationships between nutrients, reproduction, growth, and conversion to and marketability of animal products.

    Baseline:    2002 – Information exists for several economically significant species on the relationship between feed intake, utilization, and nutrient requirements related to animal growth.

    Target:    2007 – Information will be available to producers for more efficiently converting improved knowledge about the interaction of reproduction, growth, and nutrient intake to increase marketability of food animals.

    1.2.3:    Identify genes responsible for economically important traits, including animal product quality, efficiency of nutrient utilization, and environmental adaptability.

    Baseline:    2002 – Identified important quality trait loci in a variety of food animals and made progress on sequencing parts of several animal genomes.

    Target:    2007 – Better understanding will be available of how genes are responsible for economically important traits in food animals, such as nutrient utilization and environmental adaptability.

    1.2.4:    Maintain, characterize, and use genetic resources to optimize and safeguard genetic diversity and promote viable, vigorous animal production systems.

    Baseline:    2002 – Established a repository and developed techniques for the long-term preservation and identification of genetic resources of economically significant animals.

    Target:    2007 – The diversity of food animal germplasm will be maintained and optimized to invigorate production systems.

    1.2.5:    Provide producers with scientific information and technology that increase production efficiency, safeguard the environment, and reduce production risks and product losses.

    Baseline:    2002 – Production systems have been identified and information exists on the relationship between intake, utilization, and nutrient requirements for plant growth.

    Target:    2007 – Cultivars will be developed that are adapted for management practices that optimize soil microbial, carbon, nitrogen, and water resources for sustainable production; production systems and technologies will be developed that harness genetic potential to maximize profits and provide secure supply and market competitiveness; and user-friendly models and decision aids will be enhanced to determine cost-effective inputs for specific enterprises or the whole operation.

    1.2.6:    Improve the understanding of the biological mechanisms that influence plant growth, product quality, and marketability to enhance the competitive advantage of agricultural commodities.

    Baseline:    2002 – Information exists for several economically significant crops on the fundamental biological mechanisms that control seed composition.

    Target:    2007 – Information will be available for more species to guide manipulation of regulatory metabolic processes that influence plant growth, product composition, product quality, and profitability.

    1.2.7:    Identify genes responsible for plant product quality and resistance to disease, pests, and weather losses.

    Baseline:    2002 – Identified important quantitative trait loci that govern key agronomic traits for a variety of crop species and made progress on sequencing gene-rich regions of a limited number of plant genomes.

    Target:    2007 – Have a more complete understanding of the structure and function of genes responsible for quality, growth, and health of crops and how those individual genes are regulated in the context of gene systems or networks.

    1.2.8:    Maintain, characterize, and use genetic resources to optimize, safeguard, and enhance genetic diversity and promote viable and vigorous plant production systems.

    Baseline:    2002 – Established genebanks and techniques for the long-term preservation and identification of diverse genetic resources of economically significant crops to provide germplasm for development of varieties and with disease and pest resistance and weather tolerance.

    Target:    2007 – The diversity of the germplasm collections will be expanded by acquisition of new accessions, and genetic resources from these collections will be used to produce new and improved food, agricultural, and industrial applications for agricultural products.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   Development and implementation of improved methods for genetic evaluation of food animals.

  •   Development of improved food animal management and production systems for enterprise profitability, reduced animal stress, and environmental stewardship to allow genetically improved livestock to express their production potential.

  •   Facilitate completion of genome sequences of chicken, cattle, swine, and bioinformatic platforms to enable functional genomic and proteomic approaches to improve reproductive rates and the conversion of nutrients to animal products.

  •   Identification of important genes affecting reproductive rate, host resistance to disease, and product quality and yield in food animals.

  •   Improve cryopreservation technologies for male and female gametes in poultry, swine, and aquatic animals.

  •   Develop and release crop germplasm with enhanced resistance to pests, pathogens, and weather damage.

  •   Develop and release new crop germplasm resources for commercial use that have enhanced protein and oil quality.

  •   Develop and release new crops that differentiate the U.S. agricultural production base to provide higher value products.

  •   Develop new genetic methods and tools to identify specific genes that mediate end-product traits desired by consumers, such as nutritional content, oil, and grain quality and disease resistance and stress tolerance in agricultural crops.

  •   Develop tools to identify specific genes that mediate improved crop quality and composition of agricultural commodities.

  •   Improve plant genetic transformation systems to expand their usefulness and improve exploitation of genome sequence information to identify valuable genes in raw germplasm collections.

  •   Develop DNA markers linked to genes that confer resistance to biotic and abiotic stress so as to accelerate plant germplasm evaluation and breeding.

  •   Describe the structure, function, and regulation of agriculturally important genes and their protein products in model plants and crop plants.

  •   Construct and maintain physical, genetic, and transcript maps to facilitate comparative analyses among plant genomes.

  •   Identify, acquire, and expand the genetic base of crops through new accessories to enhance the diversity of plant germplasm collections.

  •   Maintain and preserve a diverse spectrum of crop genetic diversity in state-of-the-art genebanks.

  •   Expand characterizations and evaluations of crop genetic resources so as to provide detailed genetic descriptions that facilitate their use in research and crop breeding.

  •   Maintain genetic and genomic databases and effective “bioinformatic platforms” that distribute genomic information via standard software from the Internet.

  •   Expand the genetic base of crops through recurrent genetic recombination and selection for adaptation so as to facilitate use by geneticists and breeders.

  •   Strengthen breeding and evaluating of minor agronomic crops that have increasing economic importance.


    The major thrusts of the ARS mission are to conduct research that ensures high quality, safe food and other agricultural products; assesses the nutritional needs of Americans; sustains a competitive agricultural economy; and enhances the natural resource base and the environment. In doing these things, ARS also helps provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole. While ARS research has a large and very positive impact on rural America, we have chosen to organize our research program around the other four programmatic USDA/REE/ARS Strategic Plan goals.


    For the Nation to have affordable and safe food, the food system must be protected at each step from production to consumption. The production and distribution system for food in the United States has been a diverse, extensive, and easily accessible system. This open system is vulnerable to introduction of pathogens and toxins through natural processes and global commerce and by intentional means. In response to these threats, crop and livestock production systems must be protected from the ravages of diseases whether domestic or exotic in origin. The food supply must be protected during production, processing, and preparation from pathogens, toxins, and chemical contamination that cause disease in humans.

    Food safety research seeks ways to assess and control potentially harmful food contaminants. Research to ensure a secure agricultural production system refers to work that reduces or eliminates factors that threaten the ability of U.S. agriculture to produce enough food and fiber, year to year, to meet the needs of American consumers. ARS will conduct research designed to generate knowledge regarding new and improved management practices, pest management strategies, sustainable production systems, and control of potential contaminants for farms of all sizes. These activities will ensure a secure production system able to provide a safe, plentiful, diverse, and affordable supply of food, fiber, and other agricultural products.

    ARS will provide scientific information and technology to producers, manufacturers, regulatory agencies, and consumers to support their efforts to provide a secure, affordable, and safe supply of food, fiber, and industrial products.

    Objective 3.1:  Provide Science-Based Knowledge on the Safe Production, Storage, Processing, and Handling of Plant and Animal Products and on the Detection and Control of Toxin-producing and/or Pathogenic Bacteria and Fungi Parasites, Mycotoxins, Chemical Residues, and Plant Toxins So as To Assist Regulatory Agencies and the Food Industry in Reducing the Incidence of Foodborne Illnesses.

    Central to providing a safe food supply is preventing the contamination of food by pathogens, toxins, or chemical contaminants throughout production and distribution. Contamination of food can result from complex and diverse factors ranging across agricultural practices, ecological and environmental factors, manure use, water quality, weather, plant and animal genetics, industrial hygiene, storage and packaging, transportation, and food preparation. The safety of our food supply has long been a priority; the increased threat of intentional introduction has placed more emphasis on food safety in general and specifically on methods to prevent and detect contamination during processing and distribution.

    Basic applied and developmental science and resulting technologies and management practices are key to both preventing and detecting contamination of the food supply by microbial pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites), bacterial toxins, fungal toxins (mycotoxins), or chemical residues.

    Performance Measures

    3.1.1:    Develop new on-farm preharvest systems, practices, and products to reduce pathogen and toxin contamination of animal- and plant-derived foods.

    Baseline:    2002 – Achieved development of some practices and products that reduce preharvest contamination of animal- and plant-derived food products, e.g., AF 36, the non-aflatoxin competitive fungus that prevents aflatoxin in cottonseed and a program for broiler growers that will reduce the contamination of broilers with Salmonella and Campylobacter.

    Target:    2007 – Develop practices and/or products that reduce preharvest contamination of two additional major animal- and plant-derived food products.

    3.1.2:    Develop and transfer to Federal agencies and the private sector systems that rapidly and accurately detect, identify, and differentiate the most critical and economically important foodborne microbial pathogens.

    Baseline:    2002 – Achieved various stages of sequencing and annotating the genomes for several different bacterial pathogens that will be used to develop these systems.

    Target:    2007 – Develop practices and/or products that reduce postharvest contamination of two additional major animal- and plant-derived food products.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   Utilize ecological and epidemiological studies and other research to provide an understanding of factors operating during plant and food animal production in order to develop practices or products that reduce contamination of food products.

  •   Undertake research on farm systems, practices, and products to reduce microbial and toxic chemical contamination of feed and of beef, pork, and poultry for human consumption. Develop sampling plans and methods for regulatory, industry, and/or research use for the isolation, identification, and quantification of pathogens.

  •   Develop intervention strategies that reduce colonization and shedding of pathogens in animals used for food, including vaccines, drugs and feed additives, competitive exclusion, alleviation of stress, and altered management practices.

  •   Determine how antimicrobial resistance is acquired/transmitted/maintained in food-producing animals and develop technologies/altered management strategies to control its occurrence.

  •   Develop on-farm methods to ensure that pathogens and chemical contaminants from manure are handled in a safe manner and do not contaminate food or water.

  •   Develop technologies to help control mycotoxins in crops and their derived food products, including production practices; competitive exclusion; fungal genomes, genetic markers, genetic engineering and conventional breeding to improve crop germplasm; and improved methods for identification of infected crops combined, where appropriate, with effective sorting technologies.

  •   Undertake research that addresses on-farm systems, practices, and products to reduce microbial contamination of plant and seafood (shellfish) food for human consumption.

  •   Develop laboratory systems and technologies for use by regulatory agencies to specifically detect pathogens and chemical residues in foods.

  •   Develop automated, on-line, practical, economical, reliable, machine-visioning systems for the detection of surface and internal contamination of animal and plant products at slaughter or during processing.

  •   Sequence and annotate the genomes of microbial pathogens that affect food safety and public health; utilize this knowledge for the development of diagnostic tests, intervention strategies, and therapeutic agents. Develop bioinformatics tools to process, analyze, and interpret sequencing and mapping information.

  •   Develop research information systems and databases to understand the introduction and control of microorganisms in the food system from production to consumption.

  •   Develop intervention strategies that assist regulatory agencies in establishing the basis for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point program and good manufacturing practices to decrease the potential for introduction of pathogens into production and processing environments. Ensure that these strategies aid both large and small producers and processors.

    Objective 3.2:  Develop and Deliver Science-Based Information and Technologies To Reduce the Number and Severity of Agricultural Pest, Insect, Weed, and Disease Outbreaks.

    Economic sustainability of agricultural crop and livestock systems and participation in global markets is limited by the disease status of crops and livestock. Many factors affect the likelihood of diseases to crops and livestock. These include globalization and international commerce, presence of pathogen vectors, industrialization of agriculture, availability of vaccines and protection systems, movements of animals during production, continued emergence of new diseases, genetic resistance of crops and livestock, and the availability of trained plant and animal health specialists. Livestock production systems are in transition from open and extensive systems to more closely monitored intensive management systems but remain vulnerable to accidental and intentional exposure to pathogens. Many of these pathogens are zoonotic and affect public health. Crops have limited diversity and will remain vulnerable to intentional exposure to pathogens.

    New science-based approaches to protection of crops and livestock are necessary to meet the demands of new production systems and new threats to agriculture. ARS has a critical role in providing the science basis for biosecurity and disease management, developing optimal agricultural practices, understanding emerging diseases, and transferring knowledge and technologies to producers and crop and animal health professionals.

    Performance Measures

    3.2.1:    Provide scientific information to protect animals from pests, infectious diseases, and other disease-causing entities that affect animal and human health.

    Baseline:    2002 – The pathogenicity, virulence determinants, and transmission mechanisms of animal pathogens are studied to improve biosecurity and disease management.

    Target:    2007 – Increase the delivery of dependable high quality scientific information to customers, stakeholders, and partners. New discoveries and technologies will be effectively communicated to improve the management of diseases that affect the livestock, poultry, and which may affect public health. Effective communication will be achieved by publishing in highly regarded scientific journals and trade publications and on the Internet and through presentations at industry meetings.

    3.2.2:    Identify, develop, and release to the U.S. agricultural community genetic markers, genetic lines, breeds, or germplasm that result in food animals with improved (either through traditional breeding or biotechnology) pest- and disease-resistance traits.

    Baseline:    2002 – Initiated the identification of genetic markers that are associated with resistance to parasites and infectious diseases (e.g., avian coccidiosis, Ostertagia, Marek’s disease). Identified and implemented the use of new and improved technologies for selecting animals with disease-resistance traits.

    Target:    2007 – Release new and improved genetic lines, breeds, and/or germplasm of food animals that exhibit enhanced pest- and disease-resistance traits.

    3.2.3:    Develop and transfer tools to the agricultural community, commercial partners, and Federal agencies to control or eradicate domestic and exotic diseases that affect animal and human health.

    Baseline:    2002 – Completed the genomic sequencing of some domestic and exotic pathogens and identified unique sequences that are potential targets for diagnostic and vaccine development.

    Target:    2007 – Develop diagnostic and preventative tools to control and/or eradicate domestic and exotic diseases that affect production, trade, and public health. Provide action agencies with data to support risk analyses to assess the impact of domestic and exotic diseases and develop control and eradication strategies.

    3.2.4:    Develop and release to potential users varieties and/or germplasm of agriculturally important plants that are new or provide significantly improved (either through traditional breeding or biotechnology) characteristics enhancing pest or disease resistance.

    Baseline:    2002 – Developed molecular diagnostics for classification of diseases that threaten economically significant plants and established more effective technologies for selecting plants with disease resistance to Sclerotinia, downy mildew, rusts, and exotic viral diseases.

    Target:    2007 – Make available reliable diagnostic molecular assays to detect and identify emerging diseases and pests. Primers and probes are developed and protocols established for validation by State action agencies and cooperators.

    3.2.5:    Provide fundamental and applied scientific information and technology to protect agriculturally important plants from pests and diseases.

    Baseline:    2002 – Cultural and management practices have been studied and improvements explored that will provide additional protection for agriculturally important plants from diseases, pests, pathogens, insects and/or weeds.

    Target:    2007 – Specific information and technology will be available to producers to control disease and pest outbreaks as they occur. Strategies and approaches will be available to producers to control emerging crop diseases and pest outbreaks.

    3.2.6:    Provide needed scientific information and technology to producers of agriculturally important plants in support of exclusion, detection and early eradication; control and monitoring of invasive insects, weeds and pathogens; and restoration of affected areas. Conduct biologically based integrated and areawide management of key invasive species.

    Baseline:    2002 – Developed and implemented strategies for management of key invasive pest species such as Asian longhorned beetle, leafy spurge, melaleuca, and other species. Providing data in support of APHIS and other action agencies. Conducting six areawide pest management programs for insects and weeds. Increasing systematic capabilities for rust diseases and insect pests. Developing data for use in risk analyses of biological control agents, particularly with regard to modeling prediction of risk and protection of non-target species. NAL operates web portal.

    Target:    2007 – Knowledge and understanding of the ecology, physiology, epidemiology, and molecular biology of emerging diseases and pests will be improved. This knowledge will be incorporated into pest-risk assessments and management strategies to minimize chemical inputs and increase production.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   Identify genes that convey specific disease-resistance traits. Characterize gene functions and mechanisms responsible for disease-resistance traits.

  •   Identify genes, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or biomarkers that can be used to identify animals with disease-resistance traits.

  •   Characterize genetic profiles that provide specified levels of disease-resistance under field conditions.

  •   Develop and adapt new technologies to evaluate and transfer disease resistance traits to animals.

  •   Conduct epidemiological investigations to understand disease transmission mechanisms.

  •   Identify and apply new technologies that increase our understanding of virulence factors and host defense mechanisms. Priority will be given to finding factors that modulate infectivity, polymicrobial infections, host specificity, tissue tropism, and the mechanisms that facilitate the shed and spread of pests and infectious diseases.

  •   Genomic sequencing of multiple strains of bacteria and viruses will be conducted to identify unique and highly immunogenic antigens for diagnostic and vaccine development.

  •   Integrate the co-development of diagnostic tests in vaccine, bio-therapeutic, or drug development programs.

  •   Identify and evaluate new adjuvant technologies and vaccine delivery systems.

  •   Develop breeding strategies through traditional and biotechnological approaches for higher quality production germplasm with pest- and disease-resistance traits that satisfy breeder and grower demands.

  •   Make available reliable diagnostic molecular assays to detect and identify emerging diseases and pests. Primer/probes will be developed and protocols established for validation by action agencies and state cooperators.

  •   Improve knowledge and understanding of the ecology, physiology, epidemiology, and molecular biology of emerging diseases and pests. This knowledge will be incorporated into pest risk assessments and management strategies to minimize chemical inputs and increase production.

  •   Develop new knowledge and integrated pest management approaches to control pest and disease outbreaks as they occur. Strategies and approaches will be available to producers to control emerging crop diseases and pest outbreaks.

  •   Develop and deliver invasive species information via the web site managed by NAL.

  •   Develop data needed to support registration of pest control materials for minor crops.


    Improving the Nation’s health requires enhancing the quality of the American diet. The United States is experiencing an obesity epidemic resulting from multifaceted causes including a “more is better” mindset, a sedentary lifestyle, and the selection of readily available high calorie foods. In addition, 4 of the top 10 causes of death in the United States—cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes—are associated with the quality of our diets—diets too high in calories, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol or too low in fiber. Americans want fresh foods that taste good, are convenient to prepare, and consume and yet offer nutrition and health benefits. Building a strong connection between agriculture and human health is an important step to providing a nutritionally enhanced food supply. Promoting healthier food choices and educating Americans to balance caloric intake with sufficient daily physical activity are vital steps to preventing obesity and decreasing risk for chronic disease.

    ARS conducts research to generate new knowledge in human nutrition, to improve the understanding of optimal nutrient requirements for known and new classes of nutrients at all stages of the life cycle, and to better understand relationships between diet and health. ARS provides information on the composition of beneficial known and emerging food components in a variety of foods and develops new methods to measure the nutrient composition of foods. ARS conducts national food consumption surveys to assess nutrient intake and food patterns of the American people and targeted populations. ARS conducts research on dietary interventions and strategies for modifying diets, food choices, and eating and physical activity behaviors. The outcomes of these combined research efforts provide a sound scientific knowledge base for education, intervention, and outreach efforts to promote better diets, reach children early, and enable people to make healthful food and lifestyle choices.

    Objective 4.1:  Promote Healthier Individual Food Choices and Lifestyles and Prevent Obesity; Improve Human Health by Better Understanding the Nutrient Requirements of Individuals and the Nutritional Value of Foods; Determine Food Consumption Patterns of Americans.

    Good health is dependent on consumption of foods that have the right balance of nutrients to meet an individual’s needs. Nutritional values of foods appear to be more complex than their fat, carbohydrate, protein, mineral, and vitamin composition. Recent progress points to classes of compounds that play a critical role in health, such as antioxidants, lycopenes, and isoflavones. The role of these and other food components on individual health needs to be characterized. In addition, there are very few studies to discover and measure the presence of other new classes of nutrients in the varied food supply. Building databases of food composition is critical to developing healthy diets. Also critical is improving the health- promoting value of food, through selection, biotechnology, processing, and other practices.

    ARS research will determine the requirements for new classes of nutrients, determine their composition in a variety of foods, and enhance the nutritional value of our food.

    Performance Measures

    4.1.1:    Scientifically assess the efficacy of enhancements to the nutritional value of our food supply and identify, conduct, and support intramural and extramural research to develop, test, and evaluate effective clinical and community dietary intervention strategies and programs for modifying diet, eating behavior, and food choices to improve the nutritional status of targeted populations. A special emphasis is to prevent obesity and promote healthy dietary behaviors.

    Baseline:    2002 – Developed a tomato with enhanced levels of lycopene. Established local cooperators to define and implement Nutritional Intervention Research Initiatives (Delta NIRI) in a consortium of communities in the tri-state Lower Mississippi Delta area.

     Target:    2007 – Scientifically assess the health benefits to humans of two new functional foods introduced via ARS research programs. Execute and report on two completed Delta NIRI projects.

    4.1.2:   Define functions, bioavailability, interactions, and human requirements (including effects such as genetic, health status, and environmental factors) for known, emerging, and new classes of nutrients. Determine the abundance of known, emerging, and new classes of nutrients in the food supply and provide that information in databases.

    Baseline:    2002 – Provided background information and research required to update and revise Dietary Reference Intakes. Issued Release 15 of the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

    Target:    2007 – Develop research information and technology on human requirements and functions of known and emerging classes of nutrients and on the relationships between diet and health needed to support Departmental food policy reflective of revised Dietary Guidelines 2005. Expand the Nutrient Database for Standard Reference to include phytochemicals and release the joint ARS-NIH Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database (DSID).

    4.1.3:    Determine food consumption patterns of Americans, including those of different ages, ethnicity, regions, and income levels. Provide sound scientific analyses of the U.S. food consumption information to enhance the effectiveness and management of the Nation’s domestic food and nutrition assistance programs.

    Baseline:    2002 – Implemented the combined “What We Eat in America” dietary survey and provided food consumption information for 5,000 individuals.

    Target:    2007 – Provide food consumption information from the “What We Eat in America” dietary survey for 10,000 individuals.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   Develop a coordinated and integrated nationwide program, involving intramural and extramural research, to identify, characterize, modulate, and document the health benefits for humans of biologically active components in agricultural crops and animals. Perform human nutritional studies on the most promising new foods and food components following chemical and animal evaluations.

  •   Target a reduction of the prevalence of obesity by conducting research that is aimed at more clearly understanding why consumers make the food choices that they do and carry out interventions that will be successful in getting consumers to make more healthy eating choices.

  •   Conduct research to better understand the interactions between genes and diet determining the health benefits obtained in response to some key nutrients (or food components) studied within the food matrix. This would include how genetic diversity, especially in targeted subpopulations, affects the availability and utilization of nutrients and other food components and how genetic diversity interrelates with risk factors for obesity and chronic diseases.

  •   Seek stakeholder input in strategic planning and foster holistic approaches through integrated research, education, and outreach activities to increase the synergy of efforts ultimately aimed at improving health and fitness of all Americans.

  •   Conduct and support intramural and extramural research to establish nutrient requirements for all stages of the life cycle, to better understand the bioavailability of nutrients in foods, and to better understand the role of nutrition in disease prevention and health promotion.

  •   Conduct research to link composition of foods to biological responses through chemical analysis coupled with animal studies and develop multidimensional, pharmokinetic models to predict human bioavailability of health-promoting components in foods.

  •   Develop new methodologies to measure food components in the diet.

  •   Obtain, evaluate, and provide food composition data in appropriate databases.

  •   ARS will conduct the “What We Eat in America” dietary survey and increase the survey sample size from 5,000 to 10,000 individuals, which will enable the continued monitoring of the food intake of specific populations at risk, such as children.

  •   Improve the quality of methodology for collecting data on the dietary and nutritional status of individuals, subgroups, and the overall population. Identify new molecular biomarkers for assessing nutritional status.


    Agriculture relies on a natural resource base whose sustainability depends on sound, science-based production practices. The management of our renewable natural resources often seems to be a continuous balancing of conflicting and competing goals and concerns. While this is often the case, particularly in the short-term, longer term management strategies combined with adequate knowledge of the complex natural systems can yield maximum sustainable benefits from our resources that can satisfy most competing concerns.

    ARS will conduct multidisciplinary research to solve problems arising from the interaction between agriculture and the environment. New practices and technologies will be developed to conserve the Nation’s natural resource base and balance production efficiency and environmental quality. Since environmental quality is a global problem, ARS will expand collaboration with foreign research institutions. The outcome will be technology and practices that will mitigate the adverse impact of agriculture on the environment, applicable to the scale of production.

    ARS will develop the knowledge base, conservation practices, and tools needed to achieve maximum sustainable benefits from our renewable natural resources on both public and private lands.

    Objective 5.1:  Provide Science-Based Knowledge and Education To Improve the Management of Forest, Rangelands, and Pastures.

    Forest, rangeland, and pasture ecosystems provide a number of goods and services that are critical to maintaining a healthy and livable environment. Among those are clean water, clean air, productive soils, carbon storage, biodiversity, scenic vistas, and recreational opportunities. In addition, they are an important source of food, fiber, and forest products. Even though these systems are managed less intensively than conventional farmlands, sound scientific management is critical in maintaining their goods and services.

    ARS will provide the knowledge base to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of ecosystem management strategies that will give the greatest long-term benefits from our public and private forests, rangelands, and pastures, including the mitigation of global change.

    Performance Measures

    5.1.1:    Develop ecologically based information, technologies, germplasm, and management strategies that sustain agricultural production while conserving and enhancing the diverse natural resources found on rangelands and pasture lands.

    Baseline:    2002 – Approximately half of the rangelands have been significantly degraded by fire, invasive weeds, environmental changes, and poor grazing management.

    Target:    2007 – Demonstrate management strategies that integrate improved germplasm, biological controls, grazing practices, prescribed fire and decision-support tools to promote the restoration of degraded rangelands in a sustainable manner.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   Develop improved germplasm for use in renovation and restoration of degraded pasture and rangelands.

  •   Develop protocols and practices to manage pasture and rangelands in an economical and environmentally sustainable manner.

    Objective 5.2:  Provide Science-Based Knowledge and Education To Improve Quality and Management of Soil, Air, and Water Resources.

    Intensively managed croplands, in addition to providing food and fiber, play a critical role in determining air, water, and soil quality. Because these lands are intensively utilized, effective management is critical in sustaining the Nation’s natural resource base. Sound scientific management of productive croplands should lead to the maintenance of sustainable high levels of soil, air, and water quality and benefit both agricultural production and the environment. Not the least of the benefits of improved production systems is removing the necessity of farming environmentally sensitive marginal lands.

    ARS will provide producers with management practices and tools that will allow sustainable food, feed, and fiber production while protecting soil, air, and water resources.

    Performance Measures

    5.2.1:    Develop the tools and techniques required to maintain and restore the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s watersheds and its surface and groundwater resources.

    Baseline:    2002 – Currently EPA estimates that 70 percent of the rivers, 68 percent of the estuaries, and 60 percent of the lakes now meet legislatively mandated goals.

    Target:    2007 – ARS, in conjunction with other Federal, State, and local agencies, will provide the tools and means to improve the quality of the Nation’s waters that affect agricultural watersheds.

    5.2.2:    Develop agricultural practices that maintain or enhance soil resources, thus ensuring sustainable food, feed, and fiber production while protecting environmental quality.

    Baseline:    2002 – Approximately 500 million acres of cropland and grazingland have been degraded by various causes, including erosion, loss of organic matter, compaction, salinity, and soil acidification.

    Target:    2007 – Develop improved conservation practices and systems that would, if adopted, improve productivity, conserve soil resources, and enhance environmental quality.

    5.2.3:    Develop approaches that mitigate the impact of poor air quality on crop production and provide scientific information and technology to maintain or enhance crop and animal production while controlling emissions that reduce air quality or destroy the ozone layer.

    Baseline:    2002 – Dust emissions from agricultural operations and ammonia emissions from animal feeding operations pose a threat to environmental quality and human health.

    Target:    2007 – Develop management practices that would, if adopted, reduce dust emissions from agricultural operations.

    5.2.4:    Develop agricultural practices and decision-support strategies that allow producers to take advantage of beneficial effects and mitigate adverse impacts of global change.

    Baseline:    2002 – Increases in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases and related increases in weather variability affect the physiology and ecology of plants on croplands and rangelands in often unpredictable ways.

    Target:    2007 – Develop models that will provide quantitative estimates of how management practices will affect crop production and soil carbon sequestration under climatic and carbon dioxide conditions projected for major U.S. agricultural systems in the mid-21st century.

    5.2.5:    Develop management practices, treatment technologies, and decision tools for effective use of animal manure and selected industrial and municipal byproducts to improve soil properties and enhance crop production while protecting the environment.

    Baseline:    2002 – Inappropriate management of animal manure and byproducts poses a threat to soil, water, and air quality.

    Target:    2007 – Develop manure and byproduct management practices and treatment technologies that improve soil quality; reduce inputs of nutrients, sediment, and pathogens to surface and ground waters; and reduce air emissions of gases and particulates from animal feeding operations.

    5.2.6:    Develop agricultural and decision-support systems that assist in increasing the efficiency of agricultural enterprises and achieve economic and environmental sustainability.

    Baseline:    2002 – Inadequate tools to replace those lost because of environmental constraints and the uncertainty of outcomes (financial, ecological, and social) and interactions associated with changing cropping management systems are constraining the development of sustainable agriculture management systems.

    Target:    2007 – Develop alternative crop and animal production systems that increase productivity and profitability.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   Develop targeted information services, comprehensive databases, models, and decision-support systems for use in promoting sound water policies and strategies to manage the Nation’s water resources.

  •   Develop integrated watershed and river basin scale decision-support systems to assist in evaluating the effectiveness of conservation programs on working lands to improve the quality and quantity of the Nation’s water resources.

  •   Provide action agencies and producers tools and techniques to reduce soil erosion, sedimentation, and nutrient and chemical loading into the Nation’s rivers and lakes.

  •   Develop improved irrigation systems and decision-support tools that will allow irrigated agriculture to reuse waters without compromising crop production, human health, or the environment.

  •   Develop decision-support systems for better management of riparian areas, wetlands, aquatic ecosystems, and stream corridors for the protection and enhancement of watershed health.

  •   Develop practices to remediate degraded soils to enhance productivity and reduce threats to air and water quality.

  •   Develop farming systems and practices that enhance soil quality while protecting air and water quality.

  •   Develop indicators and indices of soil quality to assess the sustainability of land management practices.

  •   Develop alternatives for methyl bromide as a soil treatment to control soilborne pathogens, pests, and weeds and as a postharvest commodity treatment for control of insects.

  •   Develop cost-effective management practices, technologies, and decision tools to control gaseous and particulate emissions from crop and animal production operations.

  •   Document air quality benefits obtained by using existing and improved practices for reducing emissions from agricultural operations.

  •   Develop practices and approaches to mitigate the detrimental effects of tropospheric ozone on agricultural crops.

  •   Develop practices to reduce emissions of global change gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides, from agricultural production systems.

  •   Develop management practices to enhance soil carbon sequestration.

  •   Develop and evaluate the effectiveness of manure and byproduct management practices and treatment technologies that kill pathogens, reduce emissions, and protect water quality.

  •   Develop decision tools to measure and predict air, water, and soil quality benefits of manure and byproduct management practices and treatment technologies.

  •   Develop information services, tools, decision-support, and management systems to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of agricultural enterprises.

    GOAL 6:  Management Initiative 0.1:  Ensuring the Quality, Relevance, and Performance of ARS Research (Covers All Research Objectives)

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has established governmentwide R & D Investment Criteria that are designed to assess the relevance, quality, and performance of federally funded research. ARS will rely on organized interactions with customer, stakeholders, and partners to establish the relevancy of our research programs. Peer reviews conducted by Office of Scientific Quality Review (OSQR) and the Research Position Evaluation System (RPES) ensure the quality of our research and scientific workforce, and data gathered from the Agricultural Research Information System (ARIS) to monitor performance.

    Objective 6.0:  Provide Mechanisms To Ensure the Relevance, Quality, and Performance of the ARS Research Program

    Performance Measures

    6.0.1:    Relevance:  ARS’ basic, applied, and developmental research programs are well conceived, have specific programmatic goals, and address high priority national needs.

    Baseline:    2002 – NPS is currently developing a system that will track data on National Program workshops, conferences, mid-term assessments, and other activities that are designed to ensure the relevancy of the research program.

    Target:    2007 – When the baseline data is collected, specific targets will be established for FY 2007.

    6.0.2:    Quality:  ARS research projects are reviewed by National Program by external peer review panels at the beginning of the 5-year program cycle.

    Baseline:    2002 – OSQR reviewed 115 research projects (7 required no revisions, 46 required minor revisions, 29 required moderate revisions, 28 required major revisions, and 5 were found to be not feasible).

    Target:    2007 – OSQR plans to review 200 research projects.

    Baseline:    2002 – RPES conducted 378 reviews of ARS scientists; 186 (49.2%) were upgraded, 191 (50.5%) remained in grade or were referred to the Super Grade Panel, and 1 (0.3%) had a grade/category problem.

    Target:    2007 – RPES will conduct 340 reviews of ARS scientists.

    6.0.3:    Performance:  ARS will monitor and measure the performance of each research unit and National Program.

    Baseline:    2002 – NPS is currently developing a system that will track data on on-site location reviews, papers published, CRADAs entered into, patents and licenses applied for, and plant varieties and germplasm releases that demonstrate National Program performance.

    Target:    2007 – When the baseline data is collected, specific targets will be established for FY 2007.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   The National Program Staff will provide information on the number of National Program Workshops, meetings, other workshops, and conferences held during each fiscal year designed, in whole or in part, to review the research focus of each National Program or to establish the research focus for the next program cycle. (Relevance)

  •   Number of mid-program-cycle assessments of National Programs indicating whether the milestones in the National Program Action Plan were exceeded, fully met, substantially met, or not met with an explanation for the last two ratings. (Relevance & Performance)

  •   Number of on-site expert reviews of research units (location reviews) conducted each year to strengthen the quality and ensure the performance of the research program. (Quality & Performance)

  •   OSQR will provide summary information on the number and percentage of projects reviewed by National Program in each PART Cluster and report the number that received ratings in each OSQR category. (Quality)

  •   The RPES process will provide a summary of each year of peer reviews it conducts for ARS scientists. (Quality)

  •   Each research leader will provide an assessment of his/her project’s progress against each milestone in their approved project plan, indicating whether the milestone was exceeded, fully met, substantially met, or not met with an explanation for the latter two ratings. Line management will review and concur in these assessments. Each year NPS will review a random sample of these assessments to validate their conclusions. (Performance)

  •   Number of papers published. (Performance)

  •   Number of CRADAs. (Performance)

  •   Number of patents. (Performance)

  •   Number of licenses. (Performance)

  •   Number of plant variety and germplasm releases. (Performance)

    Management Initiative 1:  Provide Agricultural Library and Information Services to USDA and the Nation via the National Agricultural Library

    Timely, relevant information is a fundamental component of agricultural research, academic pursuits, effective policy development, and decisions related to U.S. agriculture both within and beyond USDA. Targeted information resources and services are also crucial to the successful accomplishment of USDA missions, programs, and services by inspectors, regulators, nutritionists, and other specialists, as well as their peers, customers, and stakeholders nationwide. Beyond USDA agencies and specialized technical communities, the American public requires information on a very broad set of agriculture-related topics, ranging from small business development to gardening to nutrition to food safety to farming to textiles to statistics and beyond. In addition, the permanent preservation of USDA’s and the Nation’s agricultural intellectual heritage is a key national responsibility. The National Agricultural Library (NAL) is mandated to support these needs; further, NAL is a global resource for access to agricultural information. NAL’s work in collecting, preserving, and ensuring useful access to agricultural information is fundamental to maintaining the competitive position and growth of U.S. agriculture and the development of food supplies for the Nation and world.

    NAL, the most comprehensive agricultural library in the world, has been serving USDA and the agricultural community since 1862. Established by Congress as the primary agricultural information resource of the United States, NAL’s mission is to foster a vibrant national economy and improved quality of life by providing excellent agricultural knowledge services. In recent years, Congress has broadened NAL’s responsibilities to include providing leadership in developing and operating a comprehensive national agricultural library and information network. NAL is the only U.S. institution with the statutory mandate to carry out international agricultural information responsibilities for the agricultural community. A national treasure, NAL provides comprehensive information collections and services to the many thousands of customers who access NAL on any given day. In addition to developing and managing a comprehensive collection of more than 3.5 million items published in all forms and formats, for more than 30 years NAL has led in developing electronic information services for its customers. From FY1997 to FY2002, largely because of the effective use of Internet technologies, NAL increased its total annual volume of direct customer services from 6,000,000 to more than 42,000,000.

    Objective 6.1:  Provide Rapid, Comprehensive, and Long-Term Access to the Full Range of Agricultural Information Resources Through a Variety of National Agricultural Library (NAL) Delivery Systems, With Particular Emphasis on Digital Technologies                                                                                   

    In 2002, the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics Advisory Board made recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture about the role and future development of the National Agricultural Library. In particular, the Board recommended that NAL work with a broad array of partners and stakeholders to develop the NAL National Digital Library for Agriculture (NDLA). The NDLA incorporates many of NAL’s existing programs and services, while deepening and expanding NAL’s digital collections and electronic information services. By 2007, NAL expects to have made significant progress toward developing the NDLA. The NDLA will provide services via highly trained specialized staff and modern information technologies, based on a mix of printed and other physical publications and a large universe of information that will exist primarily or solely in digital format. These services will enable NAL to provide integrated, seamless access to a broader and deeper array of resources than has been possible through previous services.

    Performance Measures

    6.1.1:    Develop and deliver content for the NAL National Digital Library for Agriculture (NDLA).

    Baseline:    2002 –The National Agricultural Library (NAL) receives 19,000 printed journal titles and serial publications and manages the access for USDA to 2,100 digital publications (ejournals, statistics, reports, databases, etc.). This literature, along with that already in NAL’s more than 3 million item national collection of agricultural literature, documents the knowledge base in the food and agricultural sciences. Procedures and policies for delivering electronic publications to desktops, for example via NAL’s DigiTop initiative for USDA staff, are evolving. NAL provides information to a broad customer base via reference services, web sites, and specialized information centers. NAL provides leadership and support for the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC).

    Target:    2007 – NAL’s national collection of agricultural literature in printed, digital, and other publication formats is comprehensive. NAL provides information in direct support of USDA priorities in agriculture to a very large and broad customer base via Web-based reference and information services, digital desktop access for licensed electronic publications, and rapid document delivery for paper-based materials. NAL serves as the hub for an information network of libraries and institutions with access to a variety of information resources.

    6.1.2:    Integrate the NAL AGRICOLA database into the NDLA.

    Baseline:    2002 – AGRICOLA resides on an obsolete computer system implemented in 1988. A standard methodology to link AGRICOLA citations to the full text of publications available in digital form has not been implemented. Throughput time for AGRICOLA indexing of journal articles averages 180 days from receipt of the journal issue to appearance of indexing records in AGRICOLA.

     Target:    2007 – AGRICOLA is the state-of-the-art online index to all NAL resources. AGRICOLA is compatible with current information technology standards for record input and output as well as for linking digital resources. Throughput time for indexing top priority journal articles is 30 days or less.

    6.1.3:    Ensure long-term access to the resources of the NAL NDLA.

    Baseline:    2002 – A digitization program is initiated to convert USDA publications from printed copies into digital publications. Metadata standards are developed for description of digital resources and the registration of persistent unique identifiers for digital objects, which will enable long-term consistent retrieval of publications in digital format.

     Target:    2007 – NAL will have digitized and preserved digitally 50,000 core documents from NAL non-digital collection materials to preserve them and provide Web access for customers. NAL takes responsibility for USDA documents by implementing a national plan for preserving agricultural information in standard digital formats.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   Purchase and/or license access to journals, newspapers, books, reference tools, and other works important to stakeholders and customers.

  •   Expand AgNIC alliance partnerships to the Land Grant Universities (LGU), the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), the Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU), and other institutions to enhance the alliance’s development of valid and reliable Web content.

  •   Enhance Web search and discovery capabilities to respond to user needs and measure and increase customer satisfaction.

  •   Upgrade and enhance software for accessing, navigating, delivering, and evaluating AGRICOLA database services.

  •   Employ mechanisms to digitally link current AGRICOLA records to corresponding digital objects including text, images, and data.

  •   Reengineer workflows to improve throughput time of journal indexing for AGRICOLA.

  •   Implement preservation technology infrastructure to digitize, preserve, and provide access to non-digital publications in the NAL collection through digitization of core documents for Web access.

  •   Expand NAL’s role in the USDA-wide strategy to ensure long-term preservation of USDA digital publications by implementing standard preservation metadata in conjunction with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and other national and international authorities.

  •   Collaborate through partnerships with United States Agricultural Information Network (USAIN) libraries for the development and implementation of a national program for the preservation of agricultural information in standard digital formats.

  •   Digitize 15,000 documents annually to preserve them and provide Web access for customers.

  •   Support departmental efforts to ensure the long-term preservation of and access to agricultural information and publications.

    Management Initiative 2:  Provide Adequate Federal Facilities Required To Support the Research Mission of ARS

    ARS research needs are the driving force behind the construction and renovation of ARS facilities. To maintain and enhance our capability to meet the needs of American agriculture—for both foreign and domestic consumption—requires a large and diverse inventory of laboratories and support facilities. Most ARS research facilities have been designed for a lifespan of approximately 30 years. Once the facility has reached this milestone, the infrastructure—electrical, heating, and ventilation systems—is generally inadequate to meet current safety standards and equipment demands of modern scientific programs. Significant investment is needed to either replace or modernize the facility to meet the needs of the research.

    Performance Measures

    6.2.1:    Complete priority buildings and facilities projects on schedule and within budget.

    Baseline:    2002 – In FY 2002, ARS received $118,987,000 for buildings and facilities account. Funding was provided to continue modernization projects and new research facilities at 24 locations. An additional $75 million was provided for Ames, IA, for modernization.

     Target:    2007 – Will not be determined until FY 2005.

    Actionable Strategies

  •   Identify facilities to be modernized or constructed in accordance with mission priorities. Administer planning, design, and construction contracts for priority projects.


    Improve Human Capital Management

    ARS is participating in the development of the REE Human Capital Management Plan. This plan will be developed in line with the USDA Human Capital Management Plan and the President=s Management Agenda goal to improve human capital management in the Federal Government.

    The REE plan focuses on strategic workforce planning and maximizing employee performance, while meeting the challenges of developing a workforce with the leadership, technical, and customer service skills needed to carry out the mission of each REE agency.

    ARS has identified specific goals toward the improvement of human capital management, including leadership development, succession planning, workforce analysis, and human capital management accountability. ARS will continue to use alternate hiring methods including Alternative Merit Promotion and the USDA Demonstration Project hiring authorities, to recruit a highly qualified, diverse workforce to meet the needs of the agency and to close the skills gap. ARS will also continue to use hiring incentives, such as recruitment bonuses and repayment of student loans, for the same purpose: to recruit a highly qualified, diverse workforce. Workforce analyses will be conducted, and competitive sourcing will be considered among the alternatives when deciding to close skills gaps or determining how to operate more efficiently and effectively. ARS will ensure that a cadre of qualified, competitive candidates will be available to lead and manage the agency’s programs in the future, through established leadership training programs (including LEAD, PEAK, Path to Leadership, and SES CDP) and development of new programs. ARS is also creating training programs to develop a future workforce in occupations facing a critical shortage of available candidates. In addition, programs are being developed to ensure accountability within the agency for the improvement of human capital management.

    ARS will:

    • Participate in development of the REE Human Capital Plan.
    • Develop goals specific to ARS within the REE Human Capital Plan.
    • Evaluate and redesign leadership training through development of a new program (tentatively titled Path to Leadership Program).
    • Link the Recruitment Strategic Plan to Skills Gap and Workforce Analysis.
    • Develop a method of accountability through the Human Capital Management Assessment Program.

    Improve Financial Management

    ARS will:

  • Develop and enhance operational financial skills in the USDA Foundation Financial Management Information System (FFIS) to sustain clean REE-wide audit opinions and to meet shortened Federal Government year-end and audited financial statement deadlines.

  • Obtain REE-wide clean financial audit opinions from USDA, OIG and meet Departmental year-end closing and financial report preparation deadlines.

  • Enhance and maintain Real and Personal Property accountability to sustain clean annual audit opinions.

  • Work cooperatively with the Department to design, convert, and implement USDA’s standard real property system entitled “Infrastructure System” (INFRA), ensure accurate and timely annual personal property inventories, and obtain REE-wide clean real and personal property annual audit opinions from USDA, OIG.

    Expand Electronic Government

    Expanding Electronic Government (eGovernment) is one of the five key elements in the President’s Management Agenda. Its objective is to transform and enhance the delivery of Government information, programs, and service to the public and other customers through integrated, cross-agency, innovative electronic solutions. In support of this objective, USDA has established an enterprise-wide eGovernment Strategic Plan that focuses on improving citizens’ knowledge of and access to agency services and programs, enhancing collaboration with public and private organizations, improving internal efficiency by promoting enterprise-wide solutions, and ensuring the security of information provided by and for agency customers. ARS has likewise developed an eGovernment Tactical Plan that establishes how it will transform its core business processes in support of the Department’s eGovernment goals and objectives, as well as enhance program delivery to its own customers and stakeholders. The Tactical Plan identifies specific ARS eGovernment initiatives in which ARS is working collaboratively as part of a Department-wide development effort and others that address agency-specific program objectives.

    Baseline:    2002 – ARS has not yet implemented any of the proposed Department-wide or multi-agency eGovernment initiatives, including eLearning, eProcurement, eGrants, Content/Knowledge Management, Web Presence/Portals, and eAuthentication.

    Target:    2007 – ARS has successfully implemented the Department-wide or multi-agency eGovernment initiatives that are relevant to agency services and programs. (The timeframe to implement these initiatives in ARS dependents on the schedule established by the Department.)

    Actionable Strategies

    ARS actively participates on Department-wide teams established to develop the business cases, requirements definition, and eventual implementation of the Department-wide eGovernment initiatives.

    ARS integrates the eGovernment planning process with its overall strategic and IT planning processes to ensure that its eGovernment goals and objectives support and enhance the overall mission goals and priorities of the agency.

    Funding and resource requirements needed in support of initiatives identified in the ARS eGovernment Tactical Plan are properly addressed in the agency IT Capital Investment Plans and budget plans.

    The ARS eGovernment Tactical Plan is revised and refined as needed to reflect updated agency and Department-wide goals and objectives, changes in priorities, and accomplishments.

    Budget and Performance Integration (BPI)

    The ARS Strategic Plan was developed to improve the performance and programmatic accountability of ARS research programs. In developing the plan, ARS has sought to fully support and comply with the President’s Management Agenda, the USDA Strategic Plan, and the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.

  • Appendix

    The ARS Pledge to Customer Service

    Our vision of customer service

    To practice the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct

    To dedicate ourselves to quality and excellence

    To provide objective and factual information to our customers

    To value and treat each customer courteously

    To listen to our customers and strive to understand their needs

    To appreciate the diversity of our customers and respect their contributions

    To provide timely, complete, and understandable responses to customer requests

    To treat our coworkers as customers

    Discrimination Statement

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

    To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

    Last Modified: 1/12/2004