Sen. Joni Ernst Talks National Security with ISU Agricultural Researchers – Iowa State Daily

US Senator Joni Ernst participated in a roundtable with researchers from Iowa State University to discuss innovation within the agricultural industry to ensure food security.

The discussion was hosted by the Farm Journal Foundation, and Iowa State University administrators, such as President Wendy Wintersteen, were also in attendance Friday afternoon. Researchers from Iowa State University presented their progress on initiatives to combat food waste and promote sustainable farming practices.

Ernst said close-to-peer competitors are scrambling to find their own research in the agricultural industry.

“We have to keep doing our own research,” Ernst said. “It is imperative that as we look at national security, the United States of America remain at the forefront of research and development, making sure our own food security is in place, because food security is national security.”

Countries in Africa and the Middle East face instability and food insecurity due to the unprecedented war in Ukraine, Ernst said. Dorothy Masinde, Associate Professor of Horticulture Education, also co-leads Service Learning courses in Uganda, where she runs nutrition programs to improve the nutritional status of women, infants and children.

The program has reached more than 60,000 people. Masinde said the program not only creates food and security, but brings research from Iowa State University to Uganda to improve capacity building.

“We see on occasion where people in power take that food supply and give it to their supporters or their family members, their associates and so we have to make sure that it gets to the population as a whole,” he said. said Ernst in reference to food insecurity on a global scale.

About 30% of food produced globally does not make it to the consumer’s mouth, said Tom Brumm, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University. Brumm specialized in food loss reduction and said that in low-income countries, food losses occur at the producer level, while high-income countries experience most food loss at the consumer level.

Assistant Professor of Agronomy Arti Singh, said one way to address food security is to grow a greater diversity of crops such as plant-based protein crops.

“The plant-based protein crop market is growing tremendously, and if you see the forecast for 2030, it’s amazing,” Singh said. “So we need to tap into that plant base in the market, and we can do that by breeding those climate-resistant, drought-tolerant crops.”

An example of this is replacing eggs with mung beans. Singh said there is a company in Minnesota that has produced the equivalent of about 300 million eggs from mung beans and there is a market for the product worldwide.

Ernst said it was in the interest of the state of Iowa to develop crop diversity.

“Especially since we are seeing climate change in some areas and other crops may be worth investing in in the future,” Ernst said. “I think there are other ways for our farmers to really grow new crops or things that might work better for the climate.”

Larry Sailer, a fourth-generation farmer who joined the roundtable, said the two most important things he faces on his farm are weather and markets.

“As you teach farmers to grow things, to grow food better, they have to have a market,” Sailer said. “You have to be able to sell it to stay in business. If you can’t market what you grow, you’re out of business.

Ernst agreed that there must be profitability for new crops, which should be determined by research. Carolyn Lawrence-Dill is Associate Dean for Research and Discovery at the College of Agriculture and Life Science at Iowa State. She said that for the United States to lead global initiatives in agriculture, proper research funding was needed.

Ernst said she would use information from farmers and agricultural researchers when participating in discussions regarding the 2023 Farm Bill.

“…When we really start to seriously work on the Farm Bill, not only do we authorize the level of funding needed to support these programs, but then we can go to officials and lobby to make sure they actually fund the programs at the level that we are asking for,” Ernst said.

Lisa Schulte Moore, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, also joined the conversation. She highlighted the development of circular farming systems, which aim to minimize external inputs by using waste to fuel another cycle such as livestock. Then livestock manure can be recycled and used as a natural fertilizer for crops.

“I think that’s one thing we can recognize is that we need to find great ways to support agriculture and minimize our carbon footprint and our impact on our communities,” Ernst said. “So innovation is really important, but at the same time, making sure it’s accessible and affordable for our whole farming community.”

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