January 15, 2013

Commentary - On Day One: Ensuring Food Security

By Dan Glickman

Dan Glickman is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, based in Washington, DC and a cochair of The Chicago Council's Global Agricultural Development Initiative. Mr. Glickman served as the U.S. secretary of agriculture from March 1995 until January 2001. This post originally appeared on Diplomatic Courier.

Dear Mr. President,

You have many pressing priorities on your plate as you enter into a second term, but one area where your leadership can continue to make a difference here at home and abroad is a focus on global food security. How to feed a hungry world in a sustainable manner is one of the most vexing problems we will have to face in the coming years, but not an insurmountable task.

Remarkable progress has already been made during your first term under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s watch with the Feed the Future initiative. This innovative program begins moving us away from a model of food aid, to one where we are actually providing education and assistance to farmers in the developing world to begin to provide for themselves.

This important work is not charity or good will, but rather an investment in our own future and our own national interests. The vulnerability that comes from poverty and starvation breed instability and unrest—classic symptoms that make impoverished areas of the world easy recruiting targets for Al Qaeda and others who wish to do us harm.

Take last year’s famine in the horn of Africa as an example. This strategic area of the world is ripe for instability. After the last major famine in 2002, the U.S. was part of an effort to invest in the Famine Early Warning System Network to begin addressing the root causes of famine before it has the opportunity to become a crisis. As a result, millions of people who would have been at risk of starvation were spared from unnecessary suffering in 2011.

Innovative U.S. development efforts in the food security arena are revolutionizing agriculture and working to end the cycle of famine. By sharing new methods of planting, harvesting, and selling food, farmers are working to produce enough for their families and communities. And modern storage facilities are providing a way for huge crop yields not to be left to spoil.

We may not be able to control Mother Nature, but with these simple advances, we can make sure cyclical droughts do not always lead to devastating famines. By planning ahead, and investing a small amount in prevention now, we save lives and money down the road.

America cannot afford to pull back from the world, but instead must lead. We must be actively engaged or others will take our place and take advantage of our missed opportunities. Ensuring food security is a win-win situation for America, as we save lives while advancing our interests as a nation.

Helping the developing world has always been important to the U.S., but with the fastest rates of economic growth occurring in those countries, we cannot afford to not be engaged.

Through my work as Chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, I have seen the importance of America’s active engagement in the world. And given the interconnected nature of the world today, it is critical for our national security, our economic prosperity, and our leadership.



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.


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