The board of directors of the Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation has named Karl Anderson as the new president of the organization. Anderson brings decades of experience in agricultural research, food and environmental policy from across the United States and on Capitol Hill.
"As climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic strain food production in the U.S. and around the world, we are seeing an increasingly urgent need for new solutions," says Thomas Grumbly, outgoing board chairman and former president. "In this critical time, Karl Anderson's leadership and expertise will serve as a driving force in SoAR's mission to advance the research needed to build sustainable, climate-resilient food systems."
Anderson joins SoAR after 10 years as director of Government Relations for the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America, where he oversaw the three organizations' work on federal policy issues related to agriculture and food-systems, natural resources and the environment. He previously served as director of Legislative Affairs for the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and also held several positions at the U.S. Department of Commerce and on Capitol Hill.
"Agricultural research plays a pivotal role in unlocking solutions to myriad agricultural challenges," says Anderson. "At SoAR we need to develop the big-picture goals — like doubling the rate of photosynthesis, increasing the nutritional quality of food, or ensuring water efficient-agriculture — that will drive the scientific innovation needed so that all of us around the world can have enough food on the table."
SoAR recently expanded its mission to increase investment in both domestic and global agriculture research to address growing global food and agricultural challenges. Today, agriculture research only accounts for 2% of federal research and development spending while agricultural productivity has slowed since the turn of the century, according to the USDA. In contrast, almost 40% of American research and development spending in the 1940s was focused on agriculture.
"Climate change has affected every part of the agricultural sector, from crops and livestock to the pathogens and weeds, even the transportation of goods," says Barbara Schaal, SoAR's board chair. "We cannot solve tomorrow's challenges by doubling down on yesterday's solutions. Poor soils, inefficient food systems and declining productivity require new solutions. We need high-quality research to reverse our outcomes in the coming decades."
Domestically, SoAR's agenda under Anderson's leadership includes shaping the research titles on the upcoming Farm Bill, the USDA's enabling legislation and building upon efforts by SoAR and partners for $2 billion in new proposed funding for agricultural research in the federal infrastructure stimulus bill.
Internationally, SoAR will champion the work of researchers and institutions across the Global South, ensuring that researchers have the resources needed to help farmers — especially those with small-scale operations—adapt and thrive in a changing climate.
"Farmers in the U.S. and around the globe have more than enough hurdles," says Anderson. "Ultimately, our job is to make sure they have the solutions needed to keep sustainably feeding the world."