Posts Tagged ‘Tom Vilsack’


New report urges the government to invest in farmers markets

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By Graham Salinger 

Every economist knows that there is no such thing as a free lunch, but if you buy the ingredients for your lunch–or breakfast or dinner–at a farmers market you could help provide a much needed boost to the economy.

Investing in farmers' markets could help boost the economy, according to this new report. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

A  report by the Union  for Concerned Scientists  stresses the importance of farmers markets in generating local revenue and creating jobs and identifies a number of steps the federal government should take to encourage the growth of farmers markets.  While the number of farmers markets nationwide more than doubled between 2000 and 2010 from 2,863 to 6,132, the report’s author, Jeffrey O’Hara, argues that more government resources could be used to support farmers markets. “On the whole, farmers markets have seen exceptional growth, providing local communities with fresh food direct from the farm,” O’Hara points out. “The fact that farmers are selling directly to the people who live nearby means that sales revenue stays local. That helps stabilize local economies,” explains O’Hara.

But If the government is going to make good on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s request  to help provide entrepreneurial training and support for farmers markets in efforts to get 100,000 Americans to become farmers by next year, the government is going to need to use the 2012 Farm Bill to prioritize funding for farmers markets.  Last year the USDA spent nearly $14 billion in commodity, crop insurance, and supplemental disaster assistance payments to support industrial agriculture, while less than $100 million was spent on supporting local food producers.



2011 World Food Prize Laureates Announced

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By Supriya Kumar

At a ceremony held today in Washington, D.C., two former presidents were announced as recipients of the 2011 World Food Prize for their roles in creating and implementing government policies to alleviate hunger and poverty in their countries. For the first time in the World Food Prize’s 25-year history, the prize has been awarded to two former heads of state – the former president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor and the former president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The 2011 World Food Prize Laureates John Kufuor and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (Photo Credit: WFP)

World Food Prize President, Kenneth M. Quinn, made the announcement, stating that the organization recognized the importance of political leaders in the global fight against hunger.  He said that both recipients had set “powerful examples” for other leaders in the world. Under President Kufuor’s presidency, Ghana became the first-sub-Saharan African country to cut in half its proportion of people suffering from hunger and poverty, and achieving the number one UN Millennium Development Goal. And, under president Silva’s policies, 93 percent of children and 82 percent of adults in Brazil can now eat three meals a day.



Beyond Production to Reduce Poverty and Hunger

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By Matt Styslinger

At the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Washington, D.C. Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on May 24th, speakers and panelists emphasized the need for approaches to agricultural development that include more than just increases in crop production. While programs that improve production and incomes—particularly of smallholder farmer—are needed, special attention should be paid to designing strategies that secure good nutrition for the world’s poorest people.

USDA secretary Tom Vilsack says that ensuring food security goes beyond just producing food (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Ann Veneman, said that hunger exists in the context of plenty. “The UN figures tell us that there are 925 million people around the world who suffer from chronic hunger,” she said. “At the same time we live in a world where there are 1 billion people who are overweight, of whom 300 million are obese.” She also said that while 2 billion of the world’s 7 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste every year.

Former member of Kenyan parliament Ruth Oniang’o said that, after years of neglect, she welcomed renewed international and national development efforts that are focusing on agriculture. But she stressed that the link between food production and nutrition was critical. “Just because [smallholder farmers] increase their tobacco production and have more income, which mostly goes to the men, that doesn’t mean that children will actually be better nourished,” said Oniang’o.

Oniang’o believes that by investing in women and youth in agricultural development, African governments can improve nutrition security in farming communities. “It’s mostly the women who struggle producing food,” she said. “These women don’t have training, extension collapsed a long time ago, they have no inputs, they have no credit, [and] nobody really cares about them.” Women, according to Oniang’o, are doing most of the farming in Africa at the smallholder level, and too much focus is going to men in development programs.

Oniang’o said that farming is a positive outlet for Africa’s young people. “There are no jobs, [but] there are opportunities in farming,” she said. According to Odiang’o, lack of opportunity—combined with lack of nutrition—creates instability and is detrimental to peace and democracy in the region. “Hunger is really devastating,” she said. “A hungry person with low blood sugar is a very angry person—virtually ungovernable.”



The Chicago Council on Global Affairs Gives a Mark of B Minus to the U.S. Government’s Leadership Role in Global Agricultural Development

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By Matt Styslinger

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs held its annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, May 24th, featuring keynote presentations from Bill Gates, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Rajiv Shah, and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tom Vilsack. The event coincided with the release of the 2011 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development by the Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative.

USAID Administer Rajiv Shah was a keynote speaker at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on May 24th. (Photo credit: Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network)

The initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, and the report gives the U.S. government a grade of B minus for its overall leadership role in global agricultural development. “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 project co-Chairs Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of the UN World Food Program, and Dan Glickman, Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Now the government as a whole must continue to support these efforts if they are to engender material reductions in global poverty,” they said.

For the U.S. government’s efforts to improve national and international institutions that deliver agricultural development assistance, the report gave its highest mark of B plus, citing improvements in USAID’s structure, effectiveness, and coordination with other agencies. A grade of D was given to the effort to improve U.S. policies currently seen as harmful to agricultural development abroad, noting that although lively discussions continue in this area, little action has been delivered.

“I see the B minus as not a final grade,” said the Center for Global Development’s Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program Director Connie Veillette at the symposium. Veillette believes that USAID’s Feed the Future initiative was likely to show greater success in the coming years. “As we get into the implementation of Feed the Future I expect that many of these benchmarks will change, and we’ll see a lot more progress.”

Shah reminded symposium attendees that this report comes at a time when nearly a billion people worldwide are chronically hungry and food prices have hit an all-time high. “We all know what this means,” said Shah. “In 2008, when this type of food price spike happened, 100 million additional people became hungry.”

Shah says that Feed the Future is making a number of improvements in the quality of food aid programs. More effective aid programs, according to Shah, are giving the world more reason than ever to be hopeful about reducing hunger. “Part of the reason I’m so hopeful springs from recognizing what hasn’t worked in the past, learning from those experiences, and doing things differently as we go forward,” said Shah. “For years, a commodity-based focus to food aid did not do enough to improve nutrition outcomes or build sustainable economic growth in vulnerable communities.”

Matt Styslinger is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To read more about the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Feed the Future see: New Initiative Aims to Influence UN Policy Discussions on Agriculture, Food, Non-Communicable Diseases, An Agricultural Success Story, Women Farmers: An ‘Untapped Solution’ to Global Hunger, Successes in Agriculture and How We Can Succeed Again, On International Women’s Day, Thinking About the Majority of Small-Scale Farmers, and Using Appropriate Technologies to “Feed the Future.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.



In Case You Missed It: The Week in Review

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We just had an exciting week in New York City where we continued to meet with NGOs, researchers, and food activists to share the innovations we’ve found over the last year and a half as we traveled through 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa for our research for State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.


(Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Some highlights from the week: This week we featured “Africa’s queen of fruits,” the Imbe.  With sap that makes arrow poison, leaves that contain antibacterial compounds, and fruit as tasty as its cousin mangosteen, the imbe, or Garcinia livingstonei, is a plant with a diverse range of benefits to diets, livelihoods, and the environment.

Check out these highlights from the Future of Food Conference which was hosted Wednesday, May 4th at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Organized by Washington Post Live, this conference brought together policymakers, scientific experts, advocates and food company leaders–including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom VilsackMillennium Institute President and CEO, and State of the World 2011 contributing author,  Hans Herren; and Navdanya Director, Dr. Vandana Shiva– to think about how to fix the food system.

Don’t miss this great interview with Nourishing the Planet co-Project Director, Brian Halweil. Halweil discusses his latest research on global fisheries, the need to sustainably manage depleting fish stocks, and how improved fishing techniques can play a role in alleviating hunger, while protecting the environment.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.



Conference Asks What the Future of Food Should Look Like

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By Mara Schechter

“What has brought us here today is the belief that our current food system is broken… and we believe this system must be changed,” said Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation” and co-producer of “Food, Inc,” at the Future of Food Conference last Wednesday at Georgetown University. Organized by Washington Post Live, this conference brought together policymakers, scientific experts, advocates and food company leaders to think about how to fix the food system.


Hans Herren, President and CEO of the Millennium Institute (Left) and Dr. Vandana Shiva, Director of Navdanya. (Photo credit: Mara Schechter)

While not everyone agreed on the best way to go about changes—for example, Susan Crockett, a head of General Mills, had different prescriptions than did Marion Nestle, an advocate for unprocessed foods—all of the conference participants agreed that the conversation was critical and timely.

Author and educator Wendell Berry blamed industrialization for a host of ills, including climate change, hunger, and poverty. “We have no time to spare,” said Gary Hirshberg, President and CEO of Stonyfield Farm. Patrick Holden, Director of the Sustainable Food Trust, urged, “Not only is the current model…unsustainable, but it needs a radical transformation.”

Even U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who was criticized by some audience members and speakers for failing to regulate genetically modified food and overuse of antibiotics in meat production, said of healthcare costs associated with unhealthy food, “There’s no more time to lose here.”

Many speakers focused on the importance of soil health and a holistic approach to agriculture. “Genuinely sustainable farming maintains the resilience of the entire ecosystem,” said Prince Charles. Fred Kirschenmann, a farmer and President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, suggested learning from natural systems to build a sustainable food system. (more…)