Thursday, April 25, 2019

'Ecohella' and Carbon Bills--How Some University Campuses Celebrated Earth Day

For those of us working in the agricultural, environmental, and food sectors, practicing sustainability expands beyond Earth Day. Nevertheless, many of our member organizations took the time to celebrate our planet and share their initiatives for creating a healthier world. 

The most active members included those in our Education Program. These universities celebrated in various ways--from planting to advocating legislation to “Ecochella”--throughout the month. 

Here are some of the events that took place:

UC-Davis CAES planted tomatoes on a beautiful Earth Day.

Photo from UC-Davis CAES Facebook Page and @fruitscilab

Cornell University loves Earth Day so much, they’ve been celebrating April as “Sustainability Month” for more than a decade. This year, they are advocating for the carbon bill and collaborating with PBS to connect people with nature.

The Ohio State University is celebrating Arbor Day on April 26--a celebration that has been part of the university since 1870.

University of Arkansas is celebrating Earth Day all week with various events across campus, including an Earth Day Fair where students are learning to roll sushi. They’re even taking selfies for NASA.

Photo from The Arkansas Traveler

Iowa State University
hosted a week filled with events, including a rally, all focused on creating a more sustainable campus

Photo from Mia Wang, the Iowa State Daily

University of Missouri-Columbia
celebrated early (April 8-13) with events such as “Sustainapalooza” and “Ecochella.”

Stand in rank with some of the top agricultural schools in the United States. 
Learn more about our Educational Program by contacting us at 515-292-2125 or visiting our website at

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

6 Tips to Avoid Spreading Misinformation

False information--misinformation--is difficult to contain, let alone reverse, due to the advancement in digital technology and the reduction of gatekeepers from news sources. When you find misinformation within hot topics, such as GM foods and organisms or animal agriculture, human dimensions (e.g., attitudes and beliefs) play a major role in the acceptance of information--accurate or not.

There is no one way to correct misinformation. Instead, you will need to personalize your strategy based on your goal, the misinformation, the audience you are targeting, etc., otherwise, your method could backfire.

But that is a long, complex discussion that will take more than a blog post to discuss. So, let’s talk about some recommendations based on a comprehensive review of social science research that can help us avoid and correct misinformation when we are communicating with an audience on charged issues.
  1. Say it right the first time--Ensure your facts are correct and accurate the first time they are communicated. It is difficult to change someone’s mind about a topic once misinformation is presented, even if they do accept the correction. 
  2. Make the corrections as soon as possible--If misinformation is presented, it is best to fix it as soon as possible so the misleading content does not spread further.
  3. Try to avoid saying “not”--Simply negating a sentence containing false facts is too closely related to the original incorrect statement. Using affirmative statements removes the possibility for misinterpretation or reinforcement of misinformation.
  4. Control the message--Simply put, do not repeat the false claim. That only helps spread what you are trying to correct. Control the message by pivoting the perspective toward the correct information.
  5. Use credible sources--Using credible sources in your content strengthens your message, but which ones you choose to use will have your audience decide if your message is worth listening to. Do not rely on sources that are opinion-based, have no sources, or seem partisan. 
  6. Visuals are your friends--People like visuals more than reading entire articles. And, for the most part, they are easy to interpret if they are aesthetically pleasing and simplified. 

Note: This blog post is based off an article written by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, scholars who study misinformation and misperception in political communication. Their article summarizes social science findings on media misinformation and misperception. While their report is comprehensive, it should be noted that this is one of many publications focused on communicating controversial/political topics and that there is much more to learn about correcting misinformation and misperceptions. 

Photo by from Pexels

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Ag Happenings in D.C.--Communication Award and Publication Rollout

During an exciting week for agriculture, CAST announced that Dr. Frank Mitloehner is the 2019 Borlaug CAST Communication Award honoree, and the organization also rolled out its newest issue paper--a science-based examination of water quality and the impacts of agricultural nutrients. Both events occurred in the nation's capital, and adding to the buzz, CAST board members gathered for the annual spring meeting.

Borlaug CAST Communication Award  

The BCCA announcement program in Washington, D.C., has become an anticipated annual event celebrating the need for effective communication in the world of agriculture. This year's presentation occurred at the USDA Whitten Patio, and Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins welcomed attendees with insights about the agriculture department and CAST's role in producing credible information for policymakers and the public.

CAST EVP Kent Schescke then introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Marty Matlock--the 2018 BCCA recipient. Matlock (University of Arkansas) is renowned for his research and insights about food production, sustainability, and global trends. Matlock spoke about "The Promise of Prosperity from the Land in the 21st Century" and then answered questions from the audience.
Dr. Frank Mitloehner

CAST President Dr. Gabe Middleton (American Association of Bovine Practitioners) spoke about the BCCA selection process and then announced this year's recipient, Frank Mitloehner. A professor and specialist at UC-Davis, Mitloehner is well respected for his ability to communicate scientific information about livestock agriculture and the impacts on climate. He believes scientists should share what they know, and along with hundreds of presentations and media appearances, Mitloehner maintains an active presence on social media.

The Borlaug CAST Communication Award is sponsored by the CropLife Foundation, and the event concluded with remarks from Kellie Bray (CropLife America Chief of Staff).

Click here to access a video recording of the full presentation--Dr. Matlock's speech begins at 12:26 and the BCCA announcement comes at the 40:11 mark.

Issue Paper Presentations

On April 15, Dr. Heidi Peterson presented highlights of CAST's new issue paper, Reducing the Impacts of Agricultural Nutrients on Water Quality across a Changing Landscape, at three D.C. venues--the Longworth House Office Building, the Russell Senate Office Building, and the Fertilizer Institute. Peterson provided an overview of the processes, conservation practices, and programs that influence the impact of agriculture on surface and groundwater quality. Peterson currently serves as the Phosphorus Program Director for the International Plant Nutrition Institute, and she is recognized for her expertise regarding water management and agriculture.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

CAST's Annual Report--Contributing to a Sustainable Future

Each year, CAST strives to strengthen its mission--to assemble, interpret, and communicate credible, balanced, science-based information to policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public. Because of membership support and the support of our extended community, we are able to make that happen.  

Last year, individual members showed that they believe credible science is more important than ever by contributing 85% more donations than in 2017. CAST delivered by rolling out six publications--two times more publications than previous years. 

The organization also continued to communicate ag/science information through its website, videos, social media, and weekly newsletter. CAST has become increasingly active due to successful social media platforms and an increase in its education program membership.

As CAST moves forward in 2019, we will ensure our reports--produced by the collaboration of scientists and experts--communicate credible, balanced, and accurate information to our stakeholders and the public.

CAST wants to thank you, our members, for your support. You are not only contributing to a sustainable future for CAST but also sustaining the integrity of credible science.

Our 2018 Annual Report includes:
  • Letters from the CAST president and executive vice president
  • Lists of our board members, individual members, and society members
  • Highlights from our board meetings, the Borlaug CAST Communication Award winner, and the CAST Science Communication Scholarship program
  • A list of our six publications
  • Fun facts about our organization
  • Revenue and expenses snapshots

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Another Top Agricultural School Joins CAST Education Program

Agriculture and food production benefit immensely from the programs, research, and career opportunities provided at quality schools throughout the country. 

CAST-Education-MembersWith the recent addition of North Carolina A&T, the CAST Education Program now has 18 respected universities as members. Faculty members and students receive credible ag/science information and publications--but the relationship is also a chance for these schools to communicate with various participants in the world of agriculture.

The newest member, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, began as a land-grant school in 1890, and it includes an award-winning faculty, intensive research programs, and community-focused initiatives. 

The university's College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences has a rich history of innovation and application of cutting-edge technology. An example of the university's community involvement is the Small Farms Task Force, a new program designed to help limited-resource and minority small farmers. 

As this video demonstrates, the NC A&T Aggies are involved with a wide variety of science and agricultural pursuits. The CAST community looks forward to working with this exciting educational institution.

(Click to view larger image)

Infograph from
Logos from respective universities

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ag-Science Publications with Impact

 CAST papers have long-term influence in the world of agriculture and food production.  
When CAST publications are first released, the organization sees a flurry of activity at rollouts (usually in Washington, D.C.) and also from the press, academics, and CAST members. Press releases, news coverage, and videos of rollout presentations help stir short-term interest. But the long-term impact of the publications often demonstrates the underlying value of the papers. CAST publications are months in the developmental stages--whether the topic is food, animals, plants, or other ag-related issues, the science-based information is gathered from experts who take the time to research, write, peer review, rewrite, edit, and finally publish. The process is difficult and time consuming, but the results have credibility and lasting effects.
CAST tracks the influence of its publications with regular impact reports. To demonstrate this procedure, we will focus on two papers--a recent rollout and a publication released two years ago.   
Data Sharing--Rollout, Press Release, Presentation Video 
Two weeks after the March 11, 2019, rollout of CAST Commentary QTA2019-1, Enabling Open-source Data Networks in Public Agricultural Research, here are some statistics from the press release distribution: The total number of views for press releases equaled 3,492. With 125 media outlets posting the press release, the potential audience was more than 45 million. The commentary is generating views and downloads, but the full impact of the publication will be evident as the next months unfold.       
Plant Breeding--Downloads, Hard Copies, and Comments
Released March 22, 2017, CAST IP 57, Plant Breeding and Genetics, is an example of a "publication with legs." The press release originally went to 9,805 e-contacts, resulting in 3,663 opens/interactions. The number of issue paper downloads after 6 months was 5,488, after 1 year there were 15,578 downloads, and after 2 years the number had risen to 23,309. The Ag quickCAST version has been downloaded 4,664 up to this time. CAST also distributed more than 600 hard copies of the printed version. Comments about the publication include the following: (1) "I think it has helped the federal granting agencies to continue to support plant breeding grants and training opportunities." (2) "Positive comments came from several ongoing and prospective graduate students regarding their decision to pursue a career in plant breeding." 
As CAST Managing Scientific Editor Carol Gostele said, "Many people don't realize the involved process our publications go through to get to the rollout stage, and that the task forces are composed of science-based volunteers--it all works together to create papers that are balanced, credible, and long-lasting."     
Click here to access the CAST website publications section.