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If the U.S. fails to sustain leadership in global agricultural development, “the result could be a significant setback in the struggle against hunger and poverty,” one of the nation’s oldest and most prominent international affairs organizations says in a recent report.
“U.S. public agricultural institutions have the world’s strongest record of success in achieving food security and poverty alleviation — in large part by delivering new technologies and market infrastructure for use by farmers and private sector input suppliers and product marketers,” says the report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Countries other than the U.S. seeking to influence agricultural development in poor nations “often bring a very different agenda, such as the European countries’ opposition to biotechnology, or Chinese efforts to influence sub-Saharan governments and control natural resources,” says the report.
Relatively small investments in key areas like agricultural education, infrastructure, and inputs like seed and fertilizer “can have tremendous impacts in impoverished regions,” says Caterine Bertinii, former executive director of the United Nations World Food Program.
Pivotal changes, specifically within the organizations that administer agricultural development assistance, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, have put the U.S. in a position to lead global efforts on food security, the report says.
It also contends that, despite an uncertain financial climate, the U.S. “should continue to step up its work in this area, as food insecurity will continue to be exacerbated by growing global populations.”
In a “report card” grading the U.S. on progress in key areas, the organization gives a B-minus for the government’s efforts to reassert leadership in global agricultural development, a B-plus for recent changes within the government to centralize and strengthen agricultural development assistance, a B for efforts to increase support to rural and agricultural infrastructure, a B-minus for support to agricultural research, Extension, and agricultural education, and a D for progress on U.S. policies perceived to inhibit agricultural development worldwide.
At the council’s May 24 Washington, D.C. symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, business, political, and education leaders shared thoughts on how U.S. public and private sector support for agricultural development can advance global security, stability, and economic prosperity.
“After several decades of decreased investment in international agriculture, the U.S. has made significant new commitments, and its new initiatives are gaining momentum in a short period of time,” said former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. “The seeds of success have been planted — now the government must continue to support these efforts if they are to result in material reductions in global poverty.”
Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, a member of the council’s advisory group, said “Our institutions of higher learning have knowledge and expertise pertinent to every aspect of the food chain — from the laboratory to the farm to the market to the table. We can be productive partners in advancing food aid programs and capacity development programs.”