The Farm Journal Foundation's Farmers Feeding the World initiative co-hosted an international agriculture and food security briefing with the Senate Hunger Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The agriculture briefing convened Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), co-chairs of the bipartisan Senate Hunger Caucus, as well as experts from public, private and nongovernmental (NGO) sectors, including special guest, Bill Gates, who addressed an audience of key Congressional staff, administration officials, and industry and civil society insiders.
|Microsoft Founder Bill Gates was a special guest at the briefing.
The purpose of the non-partisan educational briefing was to introduce global food security issues to members of Congress and staff by providing an overview of international food aid and agricultural development programs and convening thought leaders for a high-level discussion about the many innovative ways the agriculture community is fighting hunger. The speakers shared their views on the importance of collaboration and the value of investing in agricultural development as a sustainable approach to ending hunger and poverty.
Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, moderated the panel where Stephanie Mercier, agricultural policy consultant and former chief economist on the Senate Agriculture Committee, discussed the U.S. government's international food aid and agricultural development programs, many of which will be reauthorized in the 2013 farm bill.
Joining Ambassador Hall and Ms. Mercier, Jeff Austin, vice president of strategy planning for DuPont Pioneer, provided insight on the business strategy behind DuPont Pioneer's investment in agricultural development in emerging markets, emphasizing the intersection of social and business objectives.
Following the panel discussion, Senators Moran and Brown delivered remarks on how they came to champion food security issues and shared views on critical components of both the challenge and the solution. The three other Senate Hunger Caucus co-chairs and co-hosts of the briefing were Sen. John Boozman (R-Ariz.), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).
The briefing's special guest, Bill Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was the final speaker. Gates addressed his Foundation’s major commitment to global agricultural development as one of its key strategies for reducing hunger and poverty worldwide.
He emphasized the Foundation's programmatic focus on smallholder farmers and investment in agricultural research, then discussed some of the project results to date. Gates seized perfectly on a central theme of the briefing when he said, "It's been proven that of all the interventions to reduce poverty, improving agricultural productivity is the best. All the other different economic activity—yes, it trickles down. But nothing as efficiently as in agriculture."
When asked about the motivation behind the briefing, Andy Weber, chairman of the Farm Journal Foundation said, "When Farmers Feeding the World set out to leverage the agriculture community’s innovative and philanthropic spirit to fight hunger, we realized fundraising simply wasn’t enough, and that we needed to foster educational dialogue that would explore agriculture’s capacity to be an essential part of the solution."
Weber, who gave opening remarks at the briefing, added, "We hope the outcome of today’s briefing is a renewed sense of commitment and fresh take on how public and private sectors and the NGO community can work together to maximize the impact of our respective strategies for ending global hunger."