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Critical Crossroads

January 6, 2012
Critical Crossroads  6
This crowd-pleasing panel, moderated by Roger Bernard, addressed the “Global Stress Points and Solutions” for food security. Panelists included David Lambert, Lisa Davis and Philip Seng.  

By Roger Bernard and Charlene Finck

The Farm Journal Forum drew VIP speakers and attendees to examine hunger solutions and policy moves

From the opening newsmaker breakfast to the final panel, the Farm Journal Forum had an electric feel to it, with an energy matched by the top-level folks who addressed the crowd. Held just two blocks from the White House, the event brought together farmers, agribusiness executives, lawmakers and hunger relief advocates to discuss critical food and farming issues.

The Forum focused on "Securing Global Food Security with Sustainability"—a topic with wide-ranging tentacles that touch our industry from all sides. Food and farming are intrinsically interwoven, something that doesn’t always meet the eye.

"We need to build the relationship between hunger and farm policy," explained Lisa Davis, vice president of public policy for Feeding America. "Both agriculture and the hungry need to be protected."

Presenting sponsor of the December event was the Howard G. Buffett Foundation in association with Farmers Feeding the World. Here is a rundown of what the attendees learned.

FJ Forum 2011 smallSenate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) kicked off the event by giving an update on the issues facing Congress. Roberts isn’t pleased with the behind-closed-doors process of putting together a farm bill, especially because the details of the plan have yet to be released.

"We’ve had a farm bill that wasn’t and a super committee that wasn’t so super," quipped Roberts, while calling for open hearings as the next step in the development of the new farm bill.

Perhaps what evoked the most passion from Roberts was the unfolding saga of the MF Global bankruptcy. He expressed frustration at the apparent disappearance of up to $1.2 billion in customer funds. It won’t be easy for former MF Global chief Jon Corzine, who also served as a U.S. senator alongside Roberts, not to answer questions from senators as they work to get to the bottom of the MF Global meltdown.

Setting the economic stage, Bruce Scherr, CEO of Informa Economics, talked in depth about commodities prices and what they mean to the food and agriculture industries. "This is a different world," he said. "Commodities have achieved an asset class."

Overall, Scherr predicted that the U.S. economy will continue to chug along at a very moderate growth rate, while parts of Europe might slip back into recession.

Making his fifth appearance at the Forum, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman is now a co-chair of a new organization called AGree. The group describes itself as a bold new initiative designed to transform long-term agricultural, food and rural policy issues. Funded by nine of the world’s leading foundations for at least eight years, the organization has the attention of many who wonder and worry about what the policy transformation will entail.

"We used to talk about keeping non-ag out of our sandbox," he admitted. "Those days are over."

He shared that AGree, which is still in its infancy, has three priorities: improving ag productivity, food security and environmental performance here and abroad; enhancing the availability of access to nutritious food; and promoting opportunities for rural communities to succeed.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - January 2012
RELATED TOPICS: Policy, Events, Farm Journal Forum

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