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International agriculture conference kicks off year-long water quality studies for Iowan

Article cover photo
Rose Danaher, an Amana, Iowa native, is one of two 2019 Nuffield International Farming Scholars from the U.S. She will focus her studies on water quality strategies to reduce the water quality impacts of production agriculture and will develop tactics to educate the public about what farmers are doing to improve water quality. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist


No matter the country a person is from or the languages they speak, just about everyone wants to pet the friendly farm dog. 

That fact was clear as nearly 70 Nuffield Farming Scholars representing 13 countries ventured into the Iowa countryside on Monday to tour Iowa Soybean Association member Bill Couser’s second- and third-generation cattle and grain farm in Nevada. But as eager as the scholars were to befriend Couser’s blue heeler, they were even more excited to get a behind-the-scenes look at Iowa agriculture. 

The group of international scholars, each studying a unique global agricultural issue, is visiting Iowa this week for the 2019 Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference. Held at the Gateway Hotel in Ames, more than 120 international scholars, speakers, investors, country executives, board members and guests are in attendance. 

“It’s great to not only have this international conference in the U.S. but to also showcase a little bit of Iowa agriculture is fantastic,” said Rose Danaher, a 2019 Nuffield International Farming Scholar from Amana, Iowa. “I think the scale of Iowa agriculture has really impressed everyone.” 

In addition to visiting the cattle farm, the group dove into learning about the aquaculture industry. Led by entrepreneur Joe Sweeny, they toured the facilities at the up-and-coming Ellsworth tilapia farm, Eagle’s Catch. 

Scholars fired off questions at both locations. From antibiotics to automated systems and feed rations to finances, they were keen to find out what makes these operations tick and understand the opportunities and challenges farmers face.

The $12 million Eagle’s Catch facility was designed with state-of-the-art engineering, which piqued the interest of many of the international scholars. (Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

It seems a love of farm dogs and a passion for agriculture aren’t the only things these scholars have in common. 

“I think a lot of us have similar concerns and questions,” Danaher explained. “Do consumers know and trust farmers? Why are consumers driving decisions on farms when they aren’t the agricultural experts? How can we in agriculture help consumers understand why we do what we do and foster more trust?” 

Danaher is one of just two 2019 Nuffield Scholars from the U.S., and one of only five individuals to ever be selected nationwide. Her studies are co-sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association and Kee’s Creek Farm in Delaware.  

Danaher attended Iowa State University and Upper Iowa University for Animal Science and Conservation Management and she now lives on a small farm with beef cattle, horses and her hunting dogs. As a Watershed Project Coordinator for the Iowa County Soil and Water Conservation District, she works with farmers and landowners to meet their production goals while improving water quality. 

“My current project addresses a bacteria impairment on a local stream and involves both working one-on-one with producers to reduce runoff and educating the public about agriculture and water quality,” Danaher explained. 

As a 2019 Nuffield International Scholar, she will investigate strategies to reduce the water quality impacts of production agriculture and will develop tactics to educate the public about what farmers are doing to improve water quality. 

“I am also interested in understanding the development and enforcement of regulations in other countries,” Danaher said. “Such regulations could be in our future here in the U.S., or we can work to better promote other, voluntary ways to improve water quality.” 

Danaher and a small group of other Nuffield Scholars will embark on a six-week global focus group that will include visits to Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, France and Canada in June. Her individual research, which will span approximately eight weeks, will take her to major bodies of water around the world, including those in Brazil, Australia, China and Europe. 

“This experience will definitely expand my knowledge,” Danaher said. “I’m excited for this opportunity to bring knowledge back and help Iowa farmers improve water quality and foster more trust with the public.”



Contact Lauren Houska at

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