By Sarah Gonzalez
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, July 18 - Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman encouraged farm and conservation communities to pressure their policymakers for renewed and responsible spending on farm program dollars. He said this pressure is especially important on the verge of a global population boom the equivalent of “two Chinas.”

During his keynote H. Wayne Pritchard Lecture, “Food Security, Ecosystem Services, and Agricultural Policy: Farming for the Future”, at the  Soil and Water Conservation Society’s 66th Annual International Conference on July 18, 2011, Glickman emphasized the importance of Congressmen and women to put “country first” instead of political party during the current debt crisis.

“Failure to raise the debt ceiling will have unbelievably negative consequences. America’s reputation is at risk,” he said. 

During this debt crisis, the agricultural industry has the challenge to feed a growing global population in the midst of challenges that include soil erosion, climate change, diet and nutrition problems, and water conservation.

“The solution to a lot of these problems lies within the private sector,” Glickman said. “However, we cannot rely on them for all of the research. We need to complement them with public-funded research.”

While speaking to more than 700 conservationists from around the globe during Monday morning’s lecture, Glickman admonished the tendency of a large portion of Congress and the American people to view agriculture as an industry not entirely worthy of the dollars being put into it. 

“For too long, agricultural issues have been seen as parochial,” he said. “We need to give people around the world a reason to support our programs. The reason is that we must feed the world.”

While policymakers in Washington look to farm programs as primary areas for spending cuts, the farm community must attempt to bring the rhetoric back to middle ground, he said.

“The feeling in America is that dollars are going to where they’re not needed. The rhetoric of the environment we are in is not well-balanced.”

Citing several areas where agricultural research is needed to solve global food and conservation problems, he emphasized the importance of discussing agricultural issues at the highest levels of the nation’s debates.

“Global food security is as important as any other aspect of the world’s political agenda,” he said. “It is higher up on national agenda than it used to be; we need to keep it there.”

As co-chair of AGree, an initiative combining diverse interest groups in efforts to transform U.S. food and agriculture policy, Glickman is familiar with the research and development issues the agriculture industry faces, along with the leanings and tendencies of policymakers. 

“Without developing rationale for our programs, they will always be under attack,” he said. 

The Soil and Water Conservation Society’s 66th Annual International Conference takes place from July 17-20, 2011, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. Glickman’s speech served as the opening plenary lecture for the conference.

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