A Conversation with Congressional Staff about CRSP Contributions to Food Security

On June 5, four of the ten CRSP Directors held an information session with staff representing members participating in both House and Senate Agriculture Committees at the Rayburn House Office Building. The focus of the conversation was on the CRSP contributions to food security, including how they are engaging with the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative. USAID and USDA staff members and some representatives of US universities and the Association of Public Land-grant Universities were also in attendance.

On behalf of the larger CRSP community, CRSP Directors Irvin Widders (Pulse CRSP), Elizabeth Mitcham (Horticulture CRSP), Jonathan “Tim” Williams (Peanut CRSP) and Deputy Director Shana Gillette (LCC CRSP) described how the CRSP approach embodies many desirable traits of collaborative and multidisciplinary work. Working with more than 55 host country institutions, and partners in more than 40 U.S. states, the CRSPs develop long-term mutually supportive relationships with scientists and students around the world. Over the years the CRSPs have supported more than 3700 students; 40 percent of whom have been women scientists and 80 percent of whom are from developing countries.

CRSPs are active in all of the 20 Feed the Future focus countries. They are working to accelerate growth in the agriculture sector and improve the nutritional status of men, women, and children. Research under the CRSPs has led to the development of innovative solutions to reduce poverty and increase the income of smallholder farmers. For example, as Mitcham noted, the Coolbot, promoted by the Horticulture CRSP, provides smallholder farmers with inexpensive cold storage that can extend the life of their produce before it reaches the market.

Additionally, the CRSP Directors highlighted the CRSPs’ attention to nutrition and health in their research. Nutrition is implicitly and explicitly addressed by the CRSPs through their efforts to increase availability and accessibility of a diversity of foods and nutrients. One notable outcome is the CRSP-supported research that demonstrates the importance of animal source proteins to cognitive development.

While much of the conversation focused on the CRSPs’ international achievements, several participants were interested in how U.S. farmers benefit from CRSP research. The CRSP Directors pointed to research under the Peanut CRSP, which led to the development of the only black rot resistant variety of peanut available in the U.S., which allows for sustained peanut production in certain areas of southeastern U.S. The Pulse CRSP was instrumental in the development of new cultivars of beans and cowpeas using drought resistant germplasm from developing countries now used by U.S. farmers to increase yields in some states by 20 percent.

Access the presentations from this event below.

CRSP Core Traits June 2012

CRSP_Partnership June 2012

CRSP Alignment to Feed the Future June 2012

CRSP Health Nutrition June 2012