US farm tour highlights impact of research and development

The tour showed how farmers put innovations into practice
calendar icon 3 November 2022
clock icon 3 minute read

US congressional staff toured agricultural research facilities at the University of Delaware and visited a farm in rural Pennsylvania for an event highlighting how public funding for agricultural research can create a more secure food system, according to a press release from non-profit Farm Journal Foundation.

The November 1 event organized by Farm Journal Foundation, University of Delaware, and Brubaker Farms included a bipartisan group of congressional staff. The event showcased cutting edge agricultural research at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, and included a tour of Brubaker Farms in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, to see how agricultural innovations are being put into practice by farmers. Farm Journal Foundation Farmer Ambassador Luke Brubaker is a partner at Brubaker Farms, a dairy and poultry operation.

Today, the global food system is under significant pressure from challenges including the conflict in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, crop and animal disease outbreaks, and extreme weather events caused by climate change. However, agricultural research and development can help make food systems more resilient, driving innovations to increase crop yields, preserve natural resources, and enable farmers to adapt to disease and climate risks.

"Farmers and our food system are contending with multiple challenges that are driving up food prices for consumers and worsening global hunger," said Katie Lee, Vice President of government affairs for Farm Journal Foundation. "Research and innovation are absolutely vital for addressing these challenges and ensuring that we have enough safe, affordable food for everyone."

While at the University of Delaware, congressional staff toured the Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory to learn about how scientists are addressing disease outbreaks, including highly pathogenic avian influenza. Outbreaks of avian flu in the U.S. this year have affected more than 44 million birds in 43 states, according to the US Department of Agriculture, threatening farming livelihoods and driving up consumer prices for chicken, turkey, and eggs.

The tour also included stops at the new state-of-the-art, open concept laboratories at the university’s Worrilow Hall and the Fischer Greenhouse, where congressional staff learned about topics such as indoor hydroponic growing, which involves growing crops in water-based environments without soil. In addition to hastening crops’ production time, hydroponic growing requires significantly less space and water than growing outdoors.

"The future is going to require that we know how to feed the world and protect the planet at the same time," said Calvin Keeler, interim dean of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "Whether it's an issue like water, land management, disease or sustainable food systems, funding agricultural science research and the teaching and outreach of that knowledge to the agricultural community means the United States can lead the way."

After the university tour, staff visited Brubaker Farms, which has a strong focus on innovation and economic and environmental sustainability. The farm has approved soil conservation plans in place to ensure that soil resources are protected. It also has a methane gas digester to convert cow manure into renewable energy and a large solar energy system, providing power to about 350 homes in the local area.

"Public support for agricultural research has significant benefits for farmers both in the US and abroad," said Luke Brubaker, who remains active in the farm since transferring ownership to his sons Mike and Tony and grandson Josh. "Investments in technology and innovations have been critical for our farm, enabling us to evolve over time and remain efficient, profitable and environmentally sustainable. Research can also allow smallholder farmers in developing countries to increase their harvest, alleviating global hunger and driving economic growth."

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