Written by: Lara Moody | November 2, 2022
This week, the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER) made headlines for the research work we support at the Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR) Center at the University of California-Davis. Despite detractors’ efforts to discredit research underway, we are proud of the work we do with public institutions, such as the CLEAR Center. We can’t address food security while reducing our environmental impact independently. We must engage.
One reason to support this kind of work stems from the fact that public funding for agricultural research is on the decline in our country. Agricultural research at land grant universities has long been a bedrock of the highly productive U.S. food supply that is relied upon to feed the population both within and outside of our borders. Beyond production, agricultural research entities have been influential in identifying, evaluating and implementing practices to reduce the environmental footprint of food production.
Since 2002, the Economic Research Service estimates that public research and development investment in the U.S. has decreased by 32%, and China has become the global leader in funding agricultural research. If industry does not step up to fill the public funding void to support our research institutions, who will?
I certainly don’t see Greenpeace – the activist organization behind the Unearthed article, which spearheaded the perfectly timed hit piece by The New York Times - lining up to offer their vast resources to credible agricultural researchers working to reduce the footprint of our food supply.
If we are to make real, measurable progress to advance more sustainable feed technologies and practical strategies, then I believe it’s critical that public and private entities involved in producing America’s food supply are at the table. Pragmatically speaking, its industry members, in conjunction with U.S. farmers and ranchers, who have the power on the ground to make change. And if we are to make progress on meeting any of society’s overarching goals – such as the goal of reducing methane emissions by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030, a short seven years away – then collaboration between industry and academia is the straightest path.
In 2018, IFEEDER pledged $2.88 million to the U.C. Davis Foundation in support of the CLEAR Center, and we’re now several years into fulfilling that commitment. Through this effort, a pathway for a public-private dialogue has emerged that allows the animal food industry to communicate the unique challenges its facing and learn how the Center’s research, directed by a world renown, credible and peer-reviewed professor and air quality specialist, will help us move the ball further down the court.
IFEEDER is engaged in several research projects that are aimed at helping the animal food industry get on a path toward greater sustainability. We often hear from members, “We’re ready to do this, but we don’t know where to get started.” The CLEAR Center’s easy-to-understand Explainers are just one tool members can use to advance their own sustainability journeys.
But at the end of the day, those who are against animal agriculture will never be satisfied when they see progress being made to ensure the meat on our plates is produced more humanely, efficiently or sustainably (also read the GHG Guru Blog and Biobeef Blog for their analysis).
Fundraising is still underway to fulfill our financial commitment to the CLEAR Center. Greenpeace hasn’t knocked on the door yet, so industry members, the onus still falls on you to help support our country’s agricultural research institutions. Let me know if you’re interested.