The United States committed $10 billion over five years toward domestic and international food security, and ag industry groups expressed support for the United States' new "productivity coalition" as the United Nations Food Systems Summit convened Thursday.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power said half the funding would go toward domestic needs and half would be spent on international efforts.
The summit is seen as a crucial step toward achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, one of which is the eradication of hunger. Speakers at the summit said 3 billion people in the world — which currently has a population of about 7.9 billion — cannot afford a healthy diet.
“The United States has identified three priorities for food system transformation,” Vilsack said at the summit. “Food security and nutrition for all; climate change mitigation and adaptation; and the creation of inclusive and equitable food systems that address the needs of the most vulnerable.”
The secretary said the U.S. would invest $10 billion “with bipartisan support” aimed at addressing those priorities.
On the domestic side, a White House fact sheet said the money would be used for “investments in systems and infrastructure to ensure access to healthy diets for all Americans, and investments in fair and efficient markets to improve the inclusivity and resilience of our food systems. Other domestic investments support the expansion of climate-smart agriculture and forestry.”
At a press conference during the summit, Vilsack discussed a new USDA grant program that will provide $100 million to food banks for increased storage, including refrigeration, “so they’re in a position to accept more wholesome and nutritious foods.”
Vilsack also emphasized the importance of school meals for children, touting the United States’ involvement in the international School Meals Coalition — Nutrition, Health and Education for Every Child.
The $5 billion in international aid would be funneled through the Feed the Future initiative, Power said.
“With new investments and a new strategy, Feed the Future aims to contribute to a 20% reduction in poverty and stunting in target countries over the next five years,” she said.
Power also said the U.S. is going to revise its global food security strategy to “focus more on inclusive agricultural growth that lifts up women, girls and marginalized communities; that we invest tens of millions of dollars in fortifying foods with critical vitamins and minerals to fight malnutrition; and that we double down on climate-smart investments, like drought-tolerant seeds, and carbon storage in soils, so the world can boost crop yields while cutting emissions.”
Vilsack also mentioned an effort announced earlier this year with the United Arab Emirates, the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, “with a goal of dramatically increasing public and private investment in climate-smart agriculture and food system innovation.”
Vilsack told reporters the U.S. is still in the process of putting together the initiative, which will be formally “launched” at the U.N.'s climate conference in November.
Coinciding with the summit, ag and food industry groups made announcements of their own.
The North American Meat Institute, which represents companies that process 95% of beef, pork, and veal and 70% of the turkey in the U.S., said it was joining the United States’ newly launched Coalition of Action on Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation, which Vilsack has described as a counter to the European Union’s Farm to Fork and biodiversity initiatives that aim to sharply reduce the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
NAMI also said it plans to announce in November “ambitious, data-driven targets to publicly verify progress on the 100 metrics in its sustainability framework, which aims to optimize contributions to healthy land, air, and water; be the leading source of high-quality protein in balanced diets; provide the most humane care and raise healthy animals; produce safe products without exception; (and) support a diverse workforce and ensure safe workplaces.”
The group also said it had submitted the Protein PACT to the UNFSS' "commitment hub." The summit has been gathering and posting commitments by companies and groups in the lead-up to the summit.
The initiative, which describes itself as “the largest-ever effort to strengthen animal protein’s contributions to healthy people, healthy animals, healthy communities and a healthy environment,” is led by NAMI but also includes the National Pork Producers Council, United Soybean Board, National Corn Growers Association, U.S. Meat Export Federation, U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, We Care, IFeeder, Elanco, Dairy Management Inc., Beef Alliance, and Animal Agriculture Alliance.
Meanwhile, 40 organizations, including 11 of the world’s 20 largest dairy companies, said they are supporting a “Pathways to Dairy Net Zero” climate initiative. The groups include Dairy Farmers of America, Nestle, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. The U.S. dairy industry has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050.
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NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern, who also said the federation supports the U.S. productivity coalition, commented, “Some have viewed the summit as an opportunity to issue lengthy lists of do’s and don’ts to the farmers worldwide who work hard every day to feed us all. We’re proud to promote an approach that recognizes that farmers everywhere advance sustainability in many ways — with America’s dairy farmers at the forefront.”
The American Feed Industry Association also said it backed the productivity coalition, with President and CEO Constance Cullman stating, "the U.S. animal food industry has proven that novel feed ingredients and technologies in the pipeline will be game-changers in reducing animal agriculture’s environmental footprint and through this coalition, we believe leaders have an opportunity to embrace them so the world can fully realize their environmental benefits.”
Summit organizers took pains throughout the day to push back against criticism that the event is, as one reporter characterized it at the press conference featuring Vilsack, “too tech-focused, too top-down, and too corporate.”
In particular, groups representing Indigenous peoples have said they were left out of the organizing process.
But UN Deputy Secretary-General Amin Muhammad said the process had tried to include all voices, and speakers throughout the day stressed the importance of using the knowledge of Indigenous people to craft lasting solutions that will both protect the planet and feed a growing population.
Many speakers also emphasized the approximately 30% of food wasted after it leaves the farm and the importance of making nutritious food affordable.
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