February 12, 2013

Commentary - The Best Investment We Can Make for Our Future

By Dr. Catherine Woteki, Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 

Among the most ominous threats the world faces today is the possibility that we won’t be able to feed the 9 billion people who are projected to be living on Earth by mid-century.  Feeding that many people in a way that is sustainable into the far future is a huge task. It means producing more food than has been produced in all of human history and doing that every year thereafter.  Leaders in the G 8 and G 20 have called on agricultural experts from around the world to rise to this challenge, and we at USDA, like our global colleagues, are working on solutions to achieve sustainable intensification of our arable land.  The resource we need more than any other to ensure such work continues is a well-trained generation of young people engaged in agriculture.  

I hear from leaders in both the public and private sectors that there are good jobs waiting for community college and university graduates with the right education in food, natural resources and agricultural sciences. After all, from “farm to table,” this industry is among the largest in the United States.

In the United States, 4-H, USDA’s premier youth develop organization, is a mainstay of agricultural experience and education.  Science is the beneficiary of this program, and young people who get involved in 4-H are more likely to study science and math, and pursue a career in science, engineering, or computer technology.  Girls in 4-H are twice as likely to pursue science careers as their peers. 

USDA offers other opportunities for students to participate in agricultural sciences. Our Agricultural Research Service (ARS) labs provide intern research opportunities and field experience to undergrad, graduate and post-doctoral students.  Many young scientists come from other countries, attracted by the chance to conduct research of mutual interest and benefit. It also gives them unique opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge, or in some cases, to impart new skills and knowledge to ARS researchers. 

The Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program helps developing countries strengthen agricultural practices by providing scientific training and collaborative research opportunities to visiting researchers, policymakers, and university faculty.

Whether young people are here at home, or from other countries around the world, we need the next generation of scientists trained and ready to take the mantle of research from scientists who have achieved so much to feed the world today. In our recovering economy, food and agricultural sciences are areas where good-paying jobs await them. A starting salary for a young scientist in the United States is roughly $50,000 a year, and they can earn much more as their careers progress.

I am proud to have had a long career in food and agricultural science. It has been an exciting and very rewarding way to use my education and skills.  Every day brings new challenges and offers opportunities I never imagined. Now, I hope to spread that enthusiasm to the next generation of young scientists, a group I hope that comes from a diverse range of backgrounds, countries and traditions.  If we are to overcome the challenge of feeding our planet’s burgeoning population, there’s not a moment to lose on this mission. We must support science education, agricultural statistics and economics and the students who pursue these fields as a crucial investment in our future. The world is counting on us and we can’t fail them.

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Blogroll

1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA

Archive


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Commentary - The Future of Food Aid

Earlier this week, I attended the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Agriculture and Food Security, and for the second year in a row heard from experts in the fight against hunger.




Commentary - From Dairy Farm to the Global Table

I was fortunate to be in attendance as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released their new report, “Advancing Global Food Security: The Power of Science, Trade, and Business” at the 2013 Global Food Security Symposium.


Live Blog - Chicago Council: Agriculture and Health Nexus Panel

“How many enemies can I make on this answer?” Dr. Shapiro boldly called for large agribusinesses like Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont to make all their information public and readily available. Dr. Shapiro criticized these companies for not being entirely honest about their goals and motivations.



Commentary - Addressing Food Security Beyond our Food Supply

I’ll soon be attending the Symposium on Agriculture and Food Security. It doesn’t happen often that world leaders, researchers and philanthropists have the chance to gather for two days to discuss the progress made in the past year – and the work that’s still ahead – in addressing food security challenges.






Commentary - Stretching the Food Aid Dollar by Building Strong Local Markets

Floods, typhoons and droughts. Market fluctuations and inflation. Unhealthy government transitions and local political flare-ups. Disease-ridden crops and tainted water sources. All of these shocks can devastate any country, but for nations combatting poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, disasters often precipitate acute food security outbreaks that result in suffering and loss of life. 


Commentary - What Would Norm Say?

Given the decade-long relationship I had with him in building the World Food Prize, I am sometimes asked about what the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug might say about a particular topic.