Federal Investment in Agricultural Research Essential: Iowa State University Part of Effort Telling Stories of Discovery

Lisa Schulte Moore

AMES, Iowa —A new effort to boost federal investment in agricultural research launched today in Washington, D.C., bringing together Iowa State University with 15 other public and private universities.

The initiative, FedByScience, timed with the release of the 2018 House Farm Bill, focuses on demonstrating to the public and policymakers the many ways that USDA-funded universities and researchers are creating a safer, healthier and more productive food system.

“As researchers, we consider it our job to provide real-world solutions,” said Lisa Schulte Moore, professor of natural resource ecology and management at Iowa State, whose water quality research in the Midwest is featured on the new initiative’s website. “But solid science and training the next generation of problem-solvers requires additional investment into our nation’s future.”

Schulte Moore participated in FedByScience briefings this week for Senate and House of Representatives staff. The effort tells stories in which scientific discoveries and innovations have improved the way food is produced and distributed.

FedByScience highlights the work of Schulte Moore and others. Schulte Moore and her colleagues, supported by USDA grants and other funding sources, examined a set of problems confronting corn and soybean farmers—soil and nutrient retention, especially during rainstorms—and engineered an improbable solution: interspersing strips of native prairie vegetation throughout the crop rows. Her team estimated that the prairie strips solution could be used on 9.6 million acres of cropland in Iowa and a large portion of the 170 million acres under similar management in the United States.

“Access to safe, nutritious food and a healthy environment is a fundamental human right. The need for healthy food will only grow as we look to the future. There is no issue of greater importance for our experts in the agricultural and food sciences and few more deserving of federal support” said Kathryn Boor, PhD, FedByScience co-chair and The Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“U.S. farmers are confronted by turbulent commodity markets, extreme weather, and an uneven economy,” said FedByScience co-chair and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green, PhD. “A stronger investment in agricultural research can provide the science and innovation that farmers need to navigate these obstacles. Universities are now joining together to ensure that our stories about the value of food and ag research are heard.”

The agriculture and food production industries are facing considerable challenges today. For instance, Florida’s orange growers have been decimated by citrus greening disease, which has shrunk production every year for the past five years. A recent report from the National Academies concluded that, in the past 13 years, citrus greening has gone from a brand new disease to a chronic, long-term burden spread throughout Florida. As a result, Brazil has gained an increasingly larger share of the market while US farmers still have no answer for the bacteria that causes the disease.

Such challenges can only be addressed through additional research, yet the U.S. agricultural research budget has declined in real dollars since 2003. The U.S. has been second to China in total public agricultural research funding since 2008; in 2013, China’s spending on public agricultural R&D became nearly double that of the U.S.

“There is so much that federally funded food and agriculture research has accomplished, but these stories need a broader audience,” said Thomas Grumbly, President of the SoAR Foundation, which organizes FedByScience. “We are delighted to collaborate with our university partners to make this initiative a reality.”

Besides Iowa State University, participating universities include Colorado State University, Cornell University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, University of California at Davis, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Washington University, St. Louis.

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FedByScience is a collaborative initiative among universities to raise the visibility of the value of federal investment in food and agricultural research. FedByScience’s online collection of success stories highlights cutting-edge science that connect to the concerns of everyday Americans.

Iowa State University’s agricultural programs are ranked in the top 4 percent worldwide. The Agriculture Experiment Station, administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is Iowa’s only public agricultural research program and has served the state for 130 years. Over the last 5 years, scientists supported by the Agriculture Experiment Station successfully brought in more than $270 million in external funding. Agricultural scientists at Iowa State generate innovations, technologies, and solutions to immediate needs in food security, human health, economic development and environmental stewardship. Science-based information reaches every county in Iowa through ISU Extension and Outreach and research and research and demonstration farms guided by local stakeholders. The college’s 27 undergraduate majors prepare students for careers spanning the study of food, environment, energy, climate, nutrition and science and technology. The college’s current placement rate for recent graduates is 99.2 percent.

About the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation
The SoAR Foundation leads a non-partisan coalition representing more than 6 million farming families, 100,000 scientists, hundreds of colleges and universities as well as consumers, veterinarians, and others. For more information, please visit www.supportagresearch.org.