AMES, Iowa — Food insecurity across the globe skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic and researchers and politicians met to discuss how Iowa can help combat it.

Iowa’s U.S. Senator Joni Ernst was on Iowa State University’s campus on Friday to meet with agricultural scientists about the work they are doing. Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen participated in the roundtable as well, hosted and organized by the Farm Journal Foundation.

Ernst cited the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and extreme weather events as the main problems which lead to food insecurity. She outlined how farmers can use the changing climate conditions to their advantage by diversifying what crops they plant.

“As I was visiting with the different sections within our departments, they were talking about crop diversity, especially as we see changes in climate in certain areas and other crops that might be worth investing in the future,” said Senator Ernst. “So absolutely I think there are other ways our farmers can really tap into new and developing crops or things that might work better for the climate.”

Iowa State University researchers look at what ways a crop can be used to it’s full extent. That also includes researching the market demand for certain products and making sure that it would fill a need.

“So if you’re developing new crops you have to make sure that there will be profitability in that particular market, in that grain,” said Ernst as she references a grain type that the university is currently studying. “And so that is something that they’re researching to find out what can we grow and where is there actually a market for it?”

Ernst would go onto say that creating new trade opportunities with new countries needs to be looked at from every angle.

She talked about the upcoming farm bill that will need to be passed through congress next year. The farm bill is a massive spending bill that provides assistance to struggling food industries and farms.

“Gathering that information to make sure that when we really start working in earnest on the farm bill, that not only are we authorizing the level of funding necessary to support these programs, but then we can go to the appropriators and push and make sure that they’re actually funding the programs at the level we’re asking for,” said Ernst.

The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, 2023, so Iowa senators and representatives have used the August recess to listen to those involved with the farming industry in the state.