Thursday, November 17, 2011

Renewed Prosperity, Enhanced Security: The Case for Sustained American Leadership in Global Agricultural Development

THE CHALLENGE: Feeding the World
World population reached 7 billion on Monday, October 31. It is expected to exceed 9.5 billion by 2050. Today, while much of our attention is rightly focused on the glaring needs at home, another crisis is quietly brewing: the growing global demand for food and the deep poverty and hunger of 925 million people threaten the basic human condition and America’s national interests.

The solution to this crisis lies in the improvement of the agricultural systems in the developing world and so reducing poverty in the areas where it is deepest and making nations more economically secure – the twin foundations of international peace and prosperity. Growth in the agricultural sector is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. This solution also creates opportunities for American businesses while strengthening our national security.

The U.S. Congress and Administration have recognized these benefits and since 2009 have demonstrated transformative leadership on global agricultural development. Yet, the current commitment to global agricultural development is fragile. U.S. leadership is critical to sustaining renewed international attention to these issues.

At a time when it would be tempting to ignore the plight of those so distant, we must realize that they are not so far away. With demand for food expected to more than double in the next 40 years, our futures are tied together in a world facing formidable challenges, including scarce natural resources and the effects of extreme and fluctuating weather patterns amidst ever-growing populations.

THE NECESSITY: How Global Agricultural Development is in America’s Interest
Some Americans ask why the government should spend their hard-earned tax dollars on agricultural development abroad at a time of severe economic distress at home. The answer is simple: America’s prosperity and security will be improved by the reduced hunger, higher incomes, more vibrant markets, and stable societies that agricultural development will make possible

  • Increasing opportunities for American business
  • Hedging against failed states, violence, and extremism
  • Strengthening American institutions and advancing scientific frontiers
  • Harnessing the abilities and improving the lives of girls and women
  • Meeting the rising global demand for food
  • Protecting the environment and mitigating the impact of climate change
THE CALL: Sustaining American Leadership in Global Agricultural Development
The U.S. government must sustain American leadership for global agricultural development. This means preserving support for U.S. global agricultural development programs and fulfilling the commitment the United States made at the L’Aquila summit in 2009 to dedicate $3.5 billion to agricultural development over three years. In nearly every international policy arena, including agricultural development, America’s leadership has proven essential to global action. When America’s leadership in global agricultural development faltered at the end of the 1980s, efforts of most others faltered as well. More recently, when America challenged the global community to reinvigorate its commitment to agriculture, members of the G-8 pledged $22 billion. The lesson is that without American leadership little will happen.

The cost to America to sustain its support for development is approximately $1 billion a year – less than 1/10th of 1% of total U.S. spending. Even this small investment, when coupled with political leadership on the international stage, enables the U.S. to leverage the international community’s collective effort and advance U.S. political, economic, and security interests. The Congress and the Administration have already taken the first, critical steps. This leadership must now be sustained: the long-term gains far outweigh the costs.