"The first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind," said Norman Borlaug during his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. In 1977, he was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2006, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, just a few in a long line of honors bestowed upon Borlaug, known as the father of the Green Revolution. In this week's Open Mic, his granddaughter, Julie Borlaug, tells about the promise she made to him on his deathbed about continuing his focus on science and technology to feed a growing, hungry world. As Associate Director for External Relations for the Borlaug Institute at Texas A & M, she talks about several projects to help farmers in developing nations and why those who buy products labeled fair trade may be hurting, rather than helping small farmers.
As hundreds gather in Washington this week to celebrate Ag Day, we can celebrate that today's farmers each feed more than 144 people. But how do we continue to increase productivity in order to feed a growing, global population that's expected to top 9 billion by 2050? Dr. Jerry Hatfield, director of USDA's National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, says 300 bu. corn and 100 bu. soybean yield goals are attainable, but it will require rethinking increased climate variability, as well as placing a new focus on genetics, the environment and soil systems management. His comments on Open Mic are particularly timely as lawmakers grapple with budget cuts in research and conservation programs cuts that could derail some of the changes he says are needed to meet future challenges with productivity and adaptation.
A big dose of common sense from Rusty Fowler, past chair of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Fowler is with Krone, a maker of haying equipment based in Memphis, Tennessee.
He talks about tax policy, regulations and his concerns that Congress can't keep their mind on their jobs enough to pass "boiler plate" legislation. He speaks in favor of governing from the center and the problem of rewarding politicians for philosophy and behavior that would fail in the private sector.
From immigration to water quality and a host of regulatory issues, members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) deal with a broad portfolio of issues every day. Steve Troxler is the North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture and the current president of NASDA. In this week's Open Mic, Troxler is very optimistic that farmers and agribusinesses will do what's right for the environment and the consumer, but he is a little less sure of what Congress will be able to achieve at the federal level.
Will there still be adequate federal dollars available to help get more conservation practices on the ground? That's one of the big questions facing John Larson as CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts. Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees included important reforms in the conservation title of the farm bill last year, but the future is uncertain. The Washington state native also discusses how implementing more conservation on working lands can help improve soil health and water quality, while giving growers more regulatory certainty.
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor would like to see bipartisan solutions to some of our nations most troubling budget issues, but in this week's Open Mic, he paints a fairly bleak picture. The Arkansan chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and talks about some of his priorities and his concerns about cutting direct payments to address the looming March 1 sequester. A long-time advocate for rice farmers in his state, Pryor tells why he voted against the Senate farm bill last year and how he views the Obama administration's proposals on gun control.