WASHINGTON, April 27, 2016 - Farmers in the U.S. and around the world are going to be especially challenged to feed urban centers as the world population surges, according to a new report on global food security from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

By 2050, the world’s population will exceed 9 billion (up from the current 7.3 billion), and 66 percent of those people will live in cities. Global food production will need to increase by 50 to 60 percent to meet those people’s caloric needs – but it won’t – unless serious corrections are made to global food systems, the report says.

“Two-thirds of the world’s population – 6.3 billion people – will live in urban areas by 2050, creating a staggering demand for food,” Alesha Black, the director of the Council’s Global Food and Agriculture Program, said in a release. “Delivering safe, nutritious and abundant food will be a challenge, but it also stands to be an enormous business opportunity for hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers and rural entrepreneurs, with potential to lift millions of rural residents out of poverty and address a devastating lack of jobs for youth in many countries.”

Dan Glickman, former agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration and current co-chair of the advisory group that informed the report, said that “the coming years will bring about a total transformation of the food system – from farm to fork.”

“We must emphasize inclusive growth, especially of small-scale farmers who could otherwise be left behind.”

To ensure that rural and urban residents have access to safe, quality food in the future, the report’s authors recommend the U.S. government take a series of actions to bolster farmers’ productivity worldwide through research, regionalized supply chains, trade and food security policy and private sector investment. The recommendations include:

Creating global food security policy

  • Congress should pass authorizing legislation that commits the U.S. to a long-term food and nutrition security strategy
  • Agencies should increase their support for policy making in low-income countries that prioritizes infrastructure development, land tenure and food safety
  • The White House should lead G7 and G20 global food security discussions and use Sustainable Development Goals as a common framework
  • Agencies should support the development of early warning systems in low-income countries to monitor threats to food systems, such as food contamination, crop pest and disease outbreaks, livestock disease and zoonotic threats

Leveraging private-sector investment in the food system

  • The government should enable and leverage private-sector investment by U.S. firms and lead multinational efforts to spur private-sector investment
  • Partner with and support local small- and medium-sized enterprises in low-income countries to foster employment opportunities and build rural economies

Improving regional food trade capacity through policy

  • Promote transparent legal and customs infrastructure, harmonization, standardization and implementation procedures to reduce corruption and accelerate regional economic integration.
  • Encourage the use of regional food balance sheets to inform national policies and avoid unnecessary protectionism.
  • Establish and fill the position of USDA under secretary of trade and foreign agricultural affairs

Expanding the research agenda to build food systems

  • Increase investment in research that seeks to build productive, sustainable and efficient food systems. Examples would include research on: increased productivity, resilience, and transportability of foods; improved harvesting and storage technologies; water utilization and conservation; climate resilience from farm to fork; and leapfrog technologies
  • Launch a new Feed the Future Innovation Lab that focuses on food system efficiency
  • Invest in up-and-coming scientists, entrepreneurs and leaders in low-income countries


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