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U.S. Ag Scientists Hiring Needs Outlined for Top Six Largest Life Science Companies 

In 2013, CSAW conducted (through a third party research firm) a confidential survey among CSAW member companies to better understand their projected, near-term needs for hiring domestic agricultural scientists. 

>>CSAW 2013 Agricultural Science Workforce Census Final Report 
>>CSAW 2013 Agricultural Science Workforce Census Executive Summary Presentation 

Answers from the six largest responding CSAW life science companies show they expect to hire more than 1,000 domestic scientist-level FTEs between now and 2015, representing 13% of their current agricultural scientist workforce. The largest numbers of ag scientists to hire (84% of the total) in the life-science focused identified disciplines were: plant sciences, plant breeding/genetics, and plant protection. 

Nearly half (46%) will need to hold doctoral degrees. These companies are concerned about their ability to successfully fill this workforce need between now and 2015. In each of those three major disciplines, virtually all respondents concurred that: 

  • The pipeline of graduates in this discipline isn't as full as it needs to be. 
  • We anticipate challenges in finding quality applicants. 
  • We are likely to have difficulty hiring the education and experience we seek. 
  • We will need to retrain some hires in this discipline. 

CSAW was organized by a consortium of agribusiness companies and scientific societies to promote the education and training of future generations of the agricultural workforce. These data suggest there may be both a long-term and very near-term issue in finding the skill and talent needed to ensure a sustainable agricultural enterprise.

2014 CSAW Action Plan

Representatives from the CSAW companies contributing to the 2013 CSAW Ag Science Workforce Census, and the participating scientific societies, met on January 21-22, 2014, to discuss and evaluate the significance and utility of the data findings as well as related initiatives and determine viable options and potential objectives for CSAW to undertake. Based on these discussions, all the company representatives were in agreement with the data collected and encouraged broad dissemination of the findings, and agreed that CSAW should continue to undertake mutually agreeable initiatives in the future with the following three-part action plan developed for implementation.

Action Plan Objectives

Action 1: Communicate results of the CSAW Ag Science Workforce Census to key stakeholders, build awareness of effort and encourage utilization for enhancing talent development.

Action 2: Determine if the current talent supply meets the anticipated workforce need, identify skill set needs for students and develop offerings to address needs. 

Action 3: Reevaluate and formalize CSAW structure for long-term strategy.

Drivers Influencing the Current Situation

We need to make great advancements in the agricultural, nutritional, and environmental sciences in order to meet our future global food and fuel demands while protecting our natural environment.

  • In the next 40 years, it is estimated that the global population will increase by 2.4 billion to more than  9 billion, requiring a doubling of production and better distribution systems for agricultural products.
  • As of 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United nations (FAO) estimates that 1.02 billion people are undernourished worldwide. This is the highest number since 1970, the earliest year for which comparable statistics are available.
  • Everywhere in the world a healthy agriculture sector can provide an economic and employment buffer in times of crisis.
  • The majority of the hungry live in developing countries, but hunger also occurs in the industrialized world. Asia and the Pacific are home to the largest number of hungry while Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hungry citizens, with more than one in three people undernourished.
  • FAO estimates that 70% of new agricultural production will come from the adoption of new or existing technologies and 30% percent will come from new production on marginal land or from increased yields on land already in production.
  • Obesity issues have taken center stage as the public health challenge. With approximately 65% of U.S. adults and 30% of children and adolescents classified as overweight or obese, preventable chronic diseases related to diet and physical activity cost our economy more than $117 billion annually. This cost is predicted to rise to $1.7 trillion in the next 10 years.
  • The United States is producing 12 billion gallons of biofuels per year, mostly from corn grain ethanol. Expanding the biofuels industry to achieve the 36 billion gallons target by 2022 will require the development of an expanded agricultural and wood fiber commodity sector, presenting many opportunities and challenges.
  • The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established a goal of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 to power our cars, trucks, jets, ships, and tractors. This is a substantial goal, but one that the United States can meet or beat. However, past performance and business as usual will not get us there. Today, only 12 billion gallons of biofuels are produced annually. The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) Reference Case for the 2010 Annual Outlook projects that most of the growth in liquid fuel supplies will be met by biofuels, yet EIA also projects that we are not on track to meet Congress’s 2022 goal of 36 billion gallons.
  • American farmers know how to efficiently produce corn, and the technology for producing corn-based ethanol is well established. This helps account for the remarkable growth in the agricultural-based ethanol biofuels industry that grew from 1% of the U.S. fuel supply in 2000 to 7% in 2008.
  • The Renewable Fuel Standard in the EISA has effectively placed a 15-billion-gallon cap on ethanol production from corn starch as part of a new 36-billion-gallon target for 2022. The remainder of the target is to be met with advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, biobutanol, biomass-based diesel, and other biofuels that are a direct replacement for petroleum-based fuels.