By Tom Daschle

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

This year, more than seven billion people will inhabit the earth. Within forty years, that number will grow to nine billion. This dramatic increase in the world’s population will present extraordinary challenges to every country in the world, with great implications for the United States in particular.

How we prepare for this demographic milestone will determine in large measure our own national security and quality of life. For equally compelling reasons of humanitarian motivation and our country’s self-interest, it is critical that our government and business leaders understand the importance of investing to build productivity and capacity for significant increases in food production in the developing world.

There is little doubt that the availability of adequate nutrition is inextricably linked to quality of life and, therefore, to the long term stability and political environment of societies around the globe. That growing recognition has placed new emphasis on the need to build greater food capacity and productivity as part of the larger strategy for the global role of the United States in coming decades.

I applaud those within the Obama administration and many others who have advocated a “Four D” approach to enhancing our national security and international relationship-building as we address the universal challenges of the next generation.

The “Four ‘D’” approach refers to the need to look at American self-interest in four specific contexts: defense, diplomacy, democracy and development.

The first of these factors will continue to be the state of our national defense including international security. The United States will remain the dominant military power well into the 21st century. However, military dominance in the traditional sense will no longer be enough.

We must also recognize the evolving circumstances of the second “D”. Assuring our diplomatic success in developing countries will become much more complicated, challenging and important in the coming decades.

The third “D”, democracy, also deserves a high priority. It will always be in the best interests of the United States to encourage the opportunity for the people of any nation to choose their own leadership and for those leaders to be fairly elected.

The final “D”, development, has only recently begun to get the attention that it richly deserves. There is a direct connection between the economic circumstances in any country and that country’s success in advancing the goals of the first three “D’s.” Indeed, agricultural development is perhaps the most critical first step towards economic development of a country.

When we talk about development, therefore, we are talking about empowering local citizens to improve their own standard of living. Investing in agricultural development abroad should focus on the importance of helping countries with limited resources to support themselves, such that our efforts result in sustainable outputs for years to come.

Development brings extraordinary advances in national self-confidence, improvement in the quality of life, greater democratic tendencies, increased opportunities for entrepreneurship and business investment, as well as cooperation on issues relating to threats to American national security. But, ultimately, t here is nothing as basic to development as a nation’s capacity to feed its people.

The benefits of global development accrue to our own farmers here at home, not just abroad. Rising economies abroad translate into expanding markets for American exports and increased production on American farms. The shared burden of finding a solution to this global challenge is an opportunity for us all to do well by doing good.

In an effort to feed the world’s people, it is essential that we look past our usual ways of thinking and doing business in the developed world to find local, sustainable solutions that empower farmers and entrepreneurs around the globe to feed themselves and their communities.

As we consider our future in an increasingly changing and challenging world, it is not only imperative, but increasingly recognized that assisting developing nations in building their food capacity is not only in their interest, but in ours.

About the author: Tom Daschle works for the global law firm DLA Piper and is chair of the DuPont Advisory Committee on Agriculture Productivity and Innovation. The former lawmaker was elected to represent the state of South Dakota in the U.S House of Representatives in 1978 and served four terms. In 1986, the Aberdeen, South Dakota native was elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming minority leader in 1994 and also serving on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. He served as U.S. Senate Majority Leader in 2001-2002.

For more Agri-Pulse news and opinions, click HERE.