Policy has always been what drives my work. In addition to doing policy-relevant research, I applied for funding in 2018 to take a break from my PhD work and work with the Union of Concerned Scientists during Farm Bill negotiations. As the first (and only) Farm Bill under the Trump administration, and under the purview of then Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, conservation programs in the Farm Bill were on the chopping block that year.
I joined the Union of Concerned Scientists in May 2018, working in the Food and Agriculture branch alongside incredible scientists and activists Drs. Marcia DeLonge and Ricardo Salvador. In an effort to reduce total conservation funding, Senate and House Ag majority leaders were looking to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and roll a portion of its prior funding into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Prior work had examined the costs and benefits of Farm Bill conservation programs such as EQIP, but no such work had been done on CSP. Marcia and I decide to dive in: if CSP was going to be cut, we wanted to know what that would mean for the environment, farmers, and for taxpayers.
We conducted a return-on-investment analysis of CSP using FOIA'd data from USDA NRCS, and found that the ROI for CSP was much greater than other conservation programs. We wrote a report on this work, and got to work communicating it to Senate and House agriculture committees in hope of saving the program.
In August/September that year, we were invited to present these results to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, and also individually with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Luckily, our efforts paid off and CSP was reduced, but not eliminated in the ultimate Farm Bill later that year.
OTHER POLICY PRESENTATIONS
I've also been invited to present to other law makers on my policy relevant research. In the wake of emerging carbon markets, I was invited to speak on soil C measurement and monitoring to the following Senators and associated staff