Once again, World Tea News turned me onto an article about tea research being threatened by the Arizona Representative Matt Salmon (R). Apparently Mr Salmon introduced an ammendment to the NSF (National Science Foundation) funding bill for 2015 which would prohibit the funding of Dr. Selena Ahmed’s tea research. The odd part about this is that the money was committed “up front” so that the research team already has the money. This appears to be an opportunity for Representative Salmon to voice his concern about government spending that fails to actually save the taxpayers anything.
“I find it deeply troubling that while our country is facing fiscal challenges of gigantic proportions … that programs such as this are being funded on the back of the American taxpayer,” he said in offering his amendment on 29 May. “While I certainly understand the value of predicting agricultural trends for tea, I believe that that is a task that ought to be left to the private sector, the ones that benefit from this kind of information.”
The scientists argument is that Dr. Ahmed’s research is actually a model for agriculture in general. By using the tea plant, she can evaluate how climate change affects this delicate plant and the subsequent economic consequences for farmers.
Science Magazine reports on this issue as well, “Researchers say he’s missing the point of the work, which is part of an ongoing NSF initiative on science, engineering, and education for sustainability. The initiative is trying to better understand how environmental changes affect people’s lives and their response to those changes, according to NSF officials. Ahmed is looking specifically at how changes in the composition of the tea being grown could affect its marketability and, thus, the farmers’ livelihoods.”
It is believed that this would provide valuable information for other agricultural products as well. Of course that makes sense. However I think that there are lots of ways to gather this information. Given that tax payer money is being used to fund this research, I can’t help but ask why crops being grown in the U.S. can’t be the subject of such important research. I would think China would have considerable interest in tea research such as this. As this study is being done in China, shouldn’t they have some skin in the game? Why not solicit funding from them? Yes, I’m a serious tea lover. Yes, I do want to understand how climate change will affect my precious camellia sinensis but I don’t know that American taxpayers should be paying for research done on agriculture otherside of the U.S . I live in an agricultural region in Hood River Oregon. We are the largest producers of pears in the country. I can’t help but wonder how global warming has impacted our crops over the last decade. Although Representative Salmon brought up this issue, given that the money has already been distributed, he’s only giving lip service to the problem. Shame on him.
I am curious how other tea lovers feel about this. Should the NSF continue to fund research for projects that take place outside of this country when agricultural recources at home could be utilized?