MSU grad student offers, receives ag policy insight

MSU grad student offers, receives ag policy insight
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A Mississippi State University graduate student recently took part in an elite group meeting with policymakers in Washington, D.C.

Jesse Morrison, a doctoral student and research associate in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, was one of 16 graduate students and scientists from around the country who participated in Future Leaders in Science, a program designed to raise awareness and support in Congress for science and research funding.

“We were able to gain insight into the federal budget and appropriations process, as well as develop relationships with members of our congressional delegations,” Morrison said. “People from land-grant universities need to help policymakers understand different agricultural issues before they make funding decisions.”

Morrison said he will use the experience as the foundation for future connections with national decision-makers.

“As a group, we were advocating for more funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture research. Everyone we met with seemed truly concerned about agriculture and interested in supporting our research as money becomes available,” Morrison said. “They were also very aware of the farm bill details and wanted our opinions, too.”

The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America sponsored the program. While in Washington, participants had the opportunity to meet personally with leaders of these societies. They received policy, communication and advocacy training to learn how to work with members of Congress and their staffs.

Morrison, who plans to earn his doctorate in agronomy in 2015, studies methods of improving eastern gamagrass, a nutritious, warm-season forage. Although it is a native grass that livestock love, eastern gamagrass is not prolific.

“We are working to reduce dormancy and increase seed quality in gamagrass,” he said.

Brian Baldwin, a professor in plant and soil science, is Morrison’s advisor.

“The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has some outstanding students, and this is a great opportunity for others to recognize the quality of students we have at MSU,” Baldwin said. “This program exposed Jesse to the national level of agricultural decision-making and also introduced him to a network of opportunities with other land-grant universities and federal agencies.”

Baldwin said he hopes more MSU graduate students will be interested in applying for the Future Leaders in Science program.

“We hope that participating in the program will help put MSU in position for more research funding opportunities, both as we become aware of grants and as others recognize our capabilities,” he said.

Dated: 6/2/2014