Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of Agriculture’


Chicago Council Evaluates U.S. Support of Agriculture Abroad

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By Laura Reynolds

The Chicago Council on Global AffairsGlobal Agricultural Development Initiative launched its 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development in Washington, D.C. today.

The report assesses how successfully the United States has been in sustaining support for global agricultural development. (Image credit: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs)

The report assesses how successfully the United States has been in reinvigorating and sustaining international support for global agricultural development and food security. It details changes in funding and activity on agricultural development by U.S. departments and agencies, by the U.S. Congress, and in three focus countries—Ghana, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh—between 2009 and 2012.

Both the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development receive an “outstanding” evaluation in the report, for their leadership in advancing agricultural issues amid challenging budget restrictions. The report specifically commends Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her development and support of the Feed the Future initiative, which has pledged US$3.5 billion to address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture receive “good” evaluations. The report gives the Peace Corps a “satisfactory” evaluation, noting that its agriculture and environment volunteers still make up only 7 percent of the total number of volunteers in the field.

Stating that “problems of rural hunger and poverty cannot be overcome quickly,” the report urges that “the challenge in the years to come will be to maintain this strong leadership, and sustain the bipartisan support for food security and agricultural development initiatives.”



New Government Proposal Threatens Food Safety

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to fully implement a high-speed poultry production model that allows industry and private companies to take over inspection at poultry production plants. The model includes cutting 1,000 USDA poultry inspection employees and replacing them with plant inspectors who have to examine 165–200 birds per minute (bpm), from the original 140 bpm. That’s the inspection of more than three chickens per second.

Poultry inspectors protest inspection proposal at USDA (Photo credit: Food Safety News)

The proposal, formally known as the HACCP Based Inspection Models Project, or BIMP, will improve food safety and save taxpayer dollars, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). But under the proposed rule, the USDA would shift federal inspectors away from quality inspection tasks, allowing slaughter lines to speed up production.

The FSIS is responsible for ensuring public health and food safety by examining all poultry for feces, blemishes, or visible defects before they are further processed.

About 1.2 million cases of food poisoning are caused by salmonella each year from contaminated chicken, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The program could pose a serious health risk by allowing a greater chance for contaminated meat to reach consumers. In affidavits given to the Government Accountability Project, current inspectors say the proposal speeds up assembly lines so much so that it hampers any effort to fully examine birds for defects.



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.”