Calling on Congress, U.S. Government to Make Food Security a Higher Priority

Congress should commit the United States to a global food and nutrition security strategy, and the vice president should oversee it, a new report from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs recommends.

The U.S. should also increase resources for scientific collaboration and capacity building around these efforts, as well as push the international community to prioritize food security and nutrition in the post-2015 development agenda, the report’s authors said today at the Council’s annual symposium in Washington, D.C. Overall, they are urging the U.S. government to make global food security a higher priority in its economic and foreign development policy. “The government has to create a strategy that lasts beyond one administration,” said Catherine Bertini, a co-chair of the report, “Advancing Global Food Security: The Power of Science, Trade, and Business.” Bertini, the former executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, pointed to initiatives such as PEPFAR that have outlasted presidential terms. She applauded what the Obama administration has done so far on hunger and poverty, but said policymakers should forge a strategy that will last beyond the current administration. As the world’s leading agricultural power, the U.S. has the capacity to lead, and doing so helps create American jobs, expand trade and investment, grow markets and increase U.S. influence globally, the report says. These efforts have the strong support of the United States public as well, said Dan Glickman, the report’s co-chair. He cited a 2012 survey by The Chicago Council indicating that 91 percent of Americans believe that fighting world hunger should be an important U.S. foreign policy goal. “It is in our interest, our national interest, to provide leadership on these issues,” said Glickman, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture. “Food security is a national security issue.” In addition to urging the United States to prioritize global food security, the report’s other three key recommendations are:

  • Forge a new science of agriculture based on “sustainable intensification,” the idea of increasing outputs (production, nutrition and incomes) using the same amount or less of land and water, while also adapting to climate change and minimizing environmental impacts
  • Reinvigorate trade as a food security and development tool
  • Make market access and partnership with business a pillar of food security policy

On agricultural research, Glickman said, federal spending has been largely stagnant for 30 years and even slipped in recent years when considering inflation. China, meanwhile, has since become the biggest funder of public agricultural research, Glickman said. USAID Administrator Raj Shah, speaking after the recommendations were announced today, thanked the group for “helping to define a path forward for this administration and for future administrations.” He also urged the community to support Obama’s food aid reform proposal put forward to Congress in his fiscal year 2014 budget request. “Now we need your voice to help update a five-decade old system that today will become irrelevant if we don’t’ modernize it,” he said. 

Erin Stock is the online coordinator for InterAction. This blog is cross-posted on the Global Food for Thought blog. Follow @globalagdev and #globalag on Twitter to join the conversation.