Following the historic daylong agriculture focus at this year’s international climate conference, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says a partnership with next year’s host nation should offer a chance for the ag sector to take an even more important role.

The United Arab Emirates is set to host the COP28 event next year in Dubai; this year’s event wrapped up Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. UAE’s role as host will offer the country to shape the agenda to give additional time for the AIM for Climate effort UAE and the United States jointly announced at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021.

This year's COP27 conference in Egypt included a daylong focus on agricultural issues as part of its agenda. Speaking to the National Association of Farm Broadcasting on Friday, Vilsack said Mariam Bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE’s minister of climate change and environment, will ensure that there is a longer discussion about agriculture at COP28.

“I would expect and anticipate that in addition to a day, if you will, which is what we had in Egypt, that we will see a significant focus in the way in which UAE presents itself and presents the COP28 with a focus on agriculture,” Vilsack said. “I think you'll see it lifted up even further, and it should be.”

Vilsack said the U.S. and the UAE make for a good — albeit unlikely — partnership of one country that imports 80% of its food and another that is a global agricultural powerhouse. He said leaders there are “very interested in places like the United States continuing to be productive, but they also would like to be able to do a little bit more on their own” through innovations in indoor agriculture and controlled agricultural systems.

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The partnership seeks to boost private sector investments and global government support for agricultural innovation over a five-year period that began last year. USDA recently said the one year of the program’s existence has led to $8 billion in investments, 30 “innovation sprints” and more than 275 global partners.

USDA will also host an upcoming meeting in May 2023 in conjunction with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture centered on the AIM for Climate effort.  

Vilsack told NAFB he expects to see additional private-sector investment announced at the May meeting and over the next year in the lead-up to the COP28 event.

“People are now recognizing that food and agriculture is a critical component to our response to climate change … and it is part of the solution, not necessarily part of the problem, part of the solution,” he said. “Farmers are ready, they're anxious, they just need information.”

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