Sharing our Story with Policy Makers on Capitol Hill

The Danforth Center was delighted to host a group of Congressional staff from seven states as part of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club’s AgMazing Agriculture Tour. Danforth Center President and CEO, Jim Carrington PhD, welcomed the group and gave a brief overview of the center’s unique mission and work as a world-class research institute and discovery engine, as well as how our commitment to leveraging our talent, facilities and networks supports the growth of startups that are transforming the St. Louis economy.   

Guests gained insights from a panel discussion organized across the ag innovation continuum featuring Ben Johnson, Senior Vice President, Programs at BioSTL, Stephanie Regagnon, Executive Director of Innovation Partnerships, Danforth Center, Emily Lohse-Busch, Executive Director, 39 North Agtech Innovation District and Chad Kimmelshue, PhD, Seed Treatment Scientist at Pivot Bio, an emerging agtech company founded in San Francisco.

During the conversation, panelists shared their thoughts about how innovation enables both national and global security around domestically produced food, fuels, and fiber. Key points included the importance of a clustered proximity of talent, capital, and physical space that drive ideas from the lab to the farm. As an example, Pivot Bio is bringing nitrogen alternatives to growers - improving economics for farmers and mitigating environmental impact. The company was drawn to the region’s agtech strengths and has established R&D facilities here in St. Louis and field studies on farms in the Midwest.

Following the panel, participants were treated to a tour of the Danforth Center and learned more about our research and core facilities from Kirk Czymmek, PhD, Director of the Advanced BioImaging Laboratory and Katie Murphy, PhD, Director of the Bellwether Plant Phenotyping Facility.

Throughout the visit, the Danforth Center and our ecosystem partners demonstrated that an innovation community that turns ideas into new companies and new jobs - bridging urban and rural communities can create economic vitality.  When staffers return to Capitol Hill, we hope they gained linkages to how national policy – from USDA and Farm Bill projects, like AgARDA, the Ag Genome Initiative, Rural Rise, and the Research Facilities Act to the Regional Innovation program at EDA and competitive research funding through agencies like the NSF and DOE are critical to ensuring U.S. leadership in ag innovation.