Marching in cities across the United States, members of National Farmers Union (NFU) joined the world’s first-ever March for Science today, emphasizing the vital role that science should play in everyday life and in federal policymaking.
NFU President Roger Johnson, a third-generation farmer from Turtle Lake, North Dakota, addressed participants of the flagship March for Science event held in Washington, D.C.
“Farmers Union members are acutely aware of the important roles that science and science-based policies play in the success of American family farm operations,” said Johnson. “By joining in the March for Science movement, we hope to highlight the need for life sciences research, science-informed policy, and effective communication of the latest advancements in science and technology.”
Johnson called on the federal government to base policy on sound science and facts, as family farm operations are heavily impacted by federal policy. “From environmental issues like climate change and water regulation, to nutrition labeling and genetic trait approval, science must be the foundation for policy,” he said.
“Unfortunately, too many people too often decide which policy they prefer, and then look to science to back it up. Sometimes this is even true for government officials,” added Johnson. “We need to invert this approach – our leaders should first be informed by science and facts, and then implement policies that address real issues and provide real solutions.”
Johnson also highlighted the need for publicly funded, independent and peer-reviewed agricultural research to inform both farmers and policymakers. More than 70 percent of U.S. agricultural research is financed through private dollars, and the amount of public funding research done on agriculture in the U.S. is being outpaced by China, Western Europe, and Asia-Pacific region countries.
“There is a growing disparity between the amount of money we as a nation devote to agricultural research, and the amount that other industrialized nations and corporations spend,” said Johnson. “We should support the public sector’s ability to provide independent, uncompromised data and ensure corporate interests are not prioritized over those of family farmers and ranchers. Sadly, that hasn’t been the trend over the past decade.”
Michael Kovach, a diversified livestock producer from Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, spoke at the Shenango Valley March for Science in western Pennsylvania. He urged consumers to consider the impacts of climate change on the food system, as well as the impact of the food system on the climate.
“Climate change poses a very real threat to the way farmers raise their animals and grow their crops,” said Kovach. “And based on very sound science, we can expect these effects to intensify. The good news is that farmers and ranchers care for the environment and can make a big difference by practicing climate-smart agricultural practices. We can be a part of the solution to climate change; we just need buy-in from consumers and policymakers,” he concluded.
Mardy Townsend, a beef cattle producer from from Windsor, Ohio, joined the Cleveland March for Science. Townsend said she is protesting proposed cuts to the National Weather Service, a component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that provides important information about the weather and climate.
“I rely on the unbiased scientific weather predictions and analysis from the National Weather Service,” said Townsend. “I check weather.gov every single morning to help plan my farming day. Weather in the snow belt south of Lake Erie is pretty tricky, and I need all the help I can get.”
“Plus, NOAA itself has done extraordinary work in analyzing climate change,” she continued. “Farmers must have both daily weather information and the scientific facts on climate change so we can keep producing food in a changing world.”