A New Approach to Food and Ag Policy

By Dan Glickman

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What could a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, a fourth-generation farmer, an organic food advocate and an international development expert possibly have in common on food and agriculture policy?  

The answer is we all agree that food and agriculture policy is in a stalemate and will be unable to meet the world's long-term needs of production, nutrition, environment and rural communities.  

We are all seeking a different, more comprehensive approach to solving these problems. This is why we have signed up to be co-chairs of AGree, a new initiative to transform food and agriculture policy being funded by nine of the world's leading foundations. AGree will tackle long-term food and agriculture policy issues confronting the nation and the world as the population continues to grow and resources become ever more constrained. 

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While we certainly don't see eye to eye on every issue, we are all committed to finding common ground on solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing our food and agriculture systems. 

I am co-chairing AGree along with Jim Moseley, former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President George W. Bush and an Indiana farmer for more than 40 years; Gary Hirshberg, chairman, president and “CE-Yo” of Stonyfield Farm; and Emmy Simmons, former assistant administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade at the U.S. Agency for International Development and a board member for several organizations engaged in international agriculture and global development.

 The diversity of the co-chairs embodies AGree's new approach to finding solutions: We will have dialogue across all sectors and opinions; we will produce best-in-class research and comprehensive analysis; and we will find answers based on evidence without letting emotion blind us to the smartest solutions and policies. 

As a former Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton and a former congressman from Kansas for 18 years, I believe solving food and agriculture issues is of utmost importance and should be at the top of the United States' and world's agenda, alongside energy, healthcare and national security, because it has serious implications for all three. 

Our food and agriculture systems are changing rapidly, but our policies -formulated to meet the challenges of the last century - aren't evolving nearly fast enough to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. We will have 2.6 billion more mouths to feed over the next 40 years but have limited resources to meet these needs, including shrinking rural communities that continue to struggle.  

The balance of supply and demand for agricultural products will be much tighter in the future compared to the previous century, when over-supply and falling prices were of great concern. Food and agricultural issues are no longer limited to the farm bill, and the demands placed on U.S. agriculture are no longer just from farmers, consumers or even U.S. citizens.

 The past 20 years have created competition and division among stakeholders on priorities such as environment, production, economy and nutrition - creating an impasse as lawmakers try to develop food and agriculture policies here in the United States and abroad.  

We must move beyond “us vs. them” and “either-or” conversations and mentalities.

 Meaningful dialogue and agreement between the different factions will not come quickly or easily, of course. This is why AGree is at its minimum an eight-year initiative. The 2012 farm bill alone is not our goal; while it is important, it is the farm bills after that, as well as other agriculture-related policies including energy, environment and trade bills, where we truly feel we can make a difference.

 AGree is starting with no set solutions and will gather insight from a diverse set of stakeholders including: conventional and organic farmers, ranchers, nutritionists, rural advocates, energy experts, environmentalists, financiers, international aid veterans and public health specialists.

 AGree will take on the research that is necessary and will synthesize existing data to provide new insights and information for stakeholders and policymakers.

 Food and agriculture affects many different parts of our lives and a successful sustainable food and agriculture system must be developed with all of these parts in mind. These issues are simply too important, and their impact is too widespread to be left solely to the same group of people used to making all the decisions.

 About the author: Dan Glickman served as Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton. From 1976 to 1994, Glickman represented Kansas' fourth congressional district where he was a member of the House Committees on Agriculture and Judiciary, and the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He currently serves as a Senior Fellow for the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and co-chairs a bipartisan initiative on global agriculture and hunger for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Glickman is also Chairman of the education arm of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Previously, Glickman served as President of Refugees International and as Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Prior to joining MPAA, Glickman served as the Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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