Editor’s Note: Agri-Pulse and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs are teaming up to host a monthly column to explore how the U.S. agriculture and food sector can maintain its competitive edge and advance food security in an increasingly integrated and dynamic world.
“Farmers are the most adaptable people on this planet,” Kassi Tom-Rowland, member of Tom Farms, told me in a recent conversation, and I couldn’t agree with her more.
Kassi’s grandfather Everett Tom started their family farm in Leesburg, Indiana with 100 acres. He had chickens, cows and pigs and farmed to feed his five children. Kassi said that she credits her dad, Ambassador Kip Tom, with bringing a spirit of innovation to the farm. It began with putting up an irrigation system and evolved into a willingness to try out and adopt innovations that would enable the farm to increase productivity using fewer natural resources.
With that same unfaltering spirit of innovation, American growers continue to lead the way in feeding the world sustainably. Recent years have tested the resiliency of farmers with trade wars, catastrophic floods, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, but farmers are #StillFarming.
COVID-19 has exposed cracks in our global food system and made it clear that disruptions in food supply chains don’t recognize borders. According to a new FAO report, the pandemic could add between 83 million and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world this year. We are far from achieving zero hunger. It is estimated that if recent trends continue, more than 840 million people across the world will still be haunted by hunger in 2030. As the top food exporter, the US plays a critical role in global food security. We must use this opportunity to build back better food systems that are stronger, more sustainable, more inclusive and more productive for all stakeholders along the food chain, from farmer to consumer.
But what makes a resilient food system? From conversations with partners and customers over the past months, including a recent Chicago Council panel discussion, three essential components stand out.