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Evans Global Center for Food and Ag Communications aims to educate

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(The Center Square) – Interest in food production and food security peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic when consumers were directly affected by supply chains and food shortages with global impacts.

To better tell the story of agriculture, a new center called the James F. Evans Center for Food and Agricultural Communications has opened on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.

The center will prepare communicators to tell the world about agriculture and the complex issues that face farmers and marketplaces in the world today.

Director Owen Roberts said the timing is ripe for U of I to fulfill an important need.

“We are at the wonderful point for us where people want to know more and education is our business. We want to help with that information,” Roberts said.

When the gap between the ag sector and the non-ag sector keeps growing, and the issues around food production, ag markets and food security get more complex, it is more important than ever to make clear and balanced information available, Roberts said. Professionals who are steeped in the working knowledge of agriculture are needed to contribute to the conversation.

“We really hope that policy that gets made by politicians and whoever may be in the driver’s seat is made with the best information available,” Roberts said.

The new center is named for James F. Evans, an emeritus professor at the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I. Evans is a pioneer in the field of ag communications. An anonymous U of I graduate kicked off fundraising for the center with a sizable donation that was made in Evans’ name.

Roberts hopes the center will foster robust conversations among farmers, the ag industry, policymakers and consumers.

“If consumers can understand agriculture and if farmers can understand consumer needs, then people will have information to make decisions about food and agriculture,” Roberts said.

College of ACES Dean Germán Bollero told Farm Progress that he wants the Evans Center “to be a catalyst for new insights that will benefit food systems around the world.”

The word “global” is in the name of the center because a global focus is a critical part of the agriculture industry today, Roberts said. Agriculture is local. It is statewide. And it is also global, Roberts said.

“Something that happens in a country that we may never visit can have a direct impact on how much people pay for food,” he said.

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