This originally appeared as a guest column in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on December 12, 2016.
During the Iowa Food Leadership Reception on the sidelines of the World Food Prize in Des Moines in October, guests from around the world heard from Iowa State University President Steven Leath and Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Dean Wendy Wintersteen regarding the important work the university is doing to address global food and nutrition challenges.
As we all prepare for a world population of 9.5 billion by 2050, one which will require that we produce more food in the next 35 years than we have produced in the last 10,000 years combined, Iowa State’s commitment to agriculture and the life sciences is profoundly important. Presently, more than 750 research projects are tied to scientists supported by Iowa State’s Agriculture Experiment Station. The university is actively building even more collaborative relationships with businesses in Iowa and around the world in food and agriculture, partnerships which are often the nexus of the establishment of future trade opportunities for our state and nation. Just a few weeks ago, CALS faculty received the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top partnership award for multistate research for its research of the future of corn production in a changing climate.
For a state with pronounced talent shortages thanks to an expanding economy, Iowa State is contributing to Iowa’s professional agricultural and life science talent pipeline in unprecedented ways. More than 70 percent of CALS graduates remain in Iowa to begin their careers. CALS, a top 5 global agriculture school, partners each year with the World Food Prize to connect Iowa State students with global leaders in agriculture through the Iowa Youth Institute. Last year hundreds of CALS students traveled to all seven continents to learn about food, agriculture and their impact on people. When these students graduate, they are prepared to begin a career of leadership in solving the world’s food and nutrition challenges. That seven out of 10 of them will choose to do their work in Iowa is critically important to the future of our state’s leadership role in food and agriculture.
Through Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor public and private partners are working with closely with Iowa State to encourage innovation and accelerate growth in the agbioscience, biorenewables, biotech and advanced manufacturing industries. Last year, the Corridor worked with partners to deliver more than $560 million in capital and research investment activity to Iowa, which created or retained nearly 700 jobs. Our efforts are paying off for the Iowa economy, giving talented people a reason to stay in Iowa and solidifying our state’s status as a leader in feeding the world.
Emphasis on food and agriculture is good for Iowa’s economy and workforce. This has long been the case, but President Leath has expanded this institutional priority tremendously since assuming leadership at Iowa State in 2012. President Leath made it clear early in his tenure that ISU’s contributions to advancing agriculture and the biosciences across our state would be a key focus of his presidency. Iowa State’s success since 2012 in advancing agriculture has mirrored the university’s broad enrollment growth and success in recent years, including a 12 percent increase in research funding and advancement of projects such as the expansion of the ISU Research Park and the opening of the ISU Economic Development Core Facility, where ISU offices engaged in economic and community development are all centrally located and easily accessed by all Iowans.
I am proud that our state’s land-grant university retains such an effective and growing focus on agriculture and bioscience, and I encourage all Iowans to take pride in our agricultural heritage. The Cultivation Corridor is committed to continuing to grow our economy and establish our state’s brand on a global stage, and we are thankful to have partners like Iowa State leading that cause.
• Brent Willett is Executive Director of Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor, a public-private economic development and innovation acceleration organization with offices in Ames and Des Moines. More information: www.cultivationcorridor.org