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Glickman: Constituency needed for ag development

2012_0705_AspenPanelists

Aspen Ideas Festival panelists, from left: Former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, now with The Aspen Institute and The Bipartisan Policy Center; Lauren Bush of FEED; former Senate Major Leader Tom Daschle, now a DLA Piper senior policy adviser and a distinguished senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; Helene Gayle of CARE USA, and Beth Sauerhaft of PepsiCo. (Michael Brands)


By JERRY HAGSTROM

ASPEN, Colo. — Advocates for agricultural development in Third World countries need to develop a constituency for supporting those programs in Congress, former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman warned here during the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Dan Glickman
Dan Glickman
After a number of panelists discussing “How will we feed 9 billion of us?” talked about the importance of shifting from food aid to helping farmers in developing countries improve their productivity, Glickman noted that American farmers have been supporters of food aid programs because “it supplied income” to them.

But with the shift to agriculture development programs there is a danger, he said, that those programs will not have a long-term constituency.

“The trick is to build political support for when it is needed,” added Glickman, executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, as well as senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and chairman of the Food Research and Action Center.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development has increased agricultural aid to developing countries and started making some food aid purchases near the food-deprived areas rather than in the United States. But there have also been moves in Congress to cut spending on those programs.

Tom Daschle
Tom Daschle
During the panel discussion, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said, “We’ve got to make [foreign aid] more relevant to most people in our country today.”

There is an image that foreign aid constitutes 25 to 30 percent of the U.S. budget, he said, while the reality is that it constitutes only 1 percent of federal spending. Daschle's consulting clients now include Pioneer.

In the next 40 years, Daschle said, the world will have to produce as much food as in the last 8,000 years. The world needs to produce more, affordable nutritious food while at the same time producing it more efficiently, especially in the use of water, he added.

Helene Gayle
Helene Gayle
CARE USA President and CEO Helen Gayle said population pressures and climate change pose particularly daunting challenges for feeding 9 billion people, the projected world population by 2050.

At present, she added, “There is probably enough food to feed people, but it is maldistributed.”

In Africa, Gayle noted, women are the major cultivators, but often can’t get financial credit. Congress needs to “revitalize” agriculture aid, she said, but cooperation with the private sector is also vital to encourage innovation.

Beth Sauerhaft
Beth Sauerhaft
Beth Sauerhaft, director of global environmental sustainability for PepsiCo, said that her company is “working on developing the right recipe for feeding another billion people.”

“Every product we make relies on agricultural raw materials,” Sauerhaft said, noting that PepsiCo has operations in 200 countries.

In its quest for productivity and sustainability, Sauerhaft said, PepsiCo is working with 600 small sunflower growers in Mexico to process their production into heart-healthy sunflower oil. In that project, the company has partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank and signed seven-year contracts with the farmers to buy their production. Under these conditions, banks view farmers as much better credit risks, she said.

“They can buy inputs. They are getting the raw materials that they need and they are gaining a lot of skills that they can apply to other crops in rotation,” said Sauerhaft, a former USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Environmental Protection Agency official.

Lauren Bush
Lauren Bush
Lauren Bush, a fashion model and designer who is an honorary spokesperson for the U.N. World Food Program and founder of FEED, an organization that sells bags to benefit school feeding, noted that she had started her organization because, like other young people, she wanted to move from talk to action.

Bush, the daughter of President George W. Bush’s brother, Neil, is married to David Lauren, the son of clothing designer Ralph Lauren.

Since the recession, she said, “We now see food insecurity in our backyards.”

But she noted that food insecurity in the United States is different. “It’s a shame that people can go to McDonald’s and fill up rather than go to the grocery store and get healthy produce,” she said.

Bush said she also visited American schools and found that “many schools have only a deep fryer and a freezer.”

Bush’s FEED project has raised enough money through the sale of products to provide more than 60 million school meals to children around the world through WFP, and has also raised funds for UNICEF’s Vitamin A and micronutrient supplements program, according to the FEED website.

The organization provided bags labeled “FEED ideas” to Aspen Ideas Festival registrants, and the festival donated 10 school meals per bag, the same amount that would be provided through the purchase of a bag.

USAID was a funder of the panel and of another panel called “The Politics of Sex” about the need for accessible reproductive health services for women in developing countries. PepsiCo was an underwriter of the festival.