October 30, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Stubble Burning | Cheese Bloc | Malnutrition Crisis

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Welcoming Peggy Tsai Yih to the Chicago Council! 

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is happy to welcome Peggy Tsai Yih as the organization’s new Managing Director of the Global Food and Agriculture Program. “The global food and agricultural enterprise will face formidable challenges in the future with feeding a growing global population and protecting an increasingly fragile natural resource base. I am delighted to join the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as the next managing director for the Global Food and Agriculture Program,” Yih said.

Yih, who has more than 14 years of experience delivering evidence-based solutions for food and agricultural policy, comes to the Council from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C. “Peggy’s depth of experience and dedication to food and agriculture policy solutions makes her the ideal fit to continue the Council’s legacy and prepare us to address the challenges resulting from COVID-19, global instability, and climate change,” Council President Ivo Daalder said. Read more about Yih here.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkyvc/557772/225998/camera_icon.pngPHOTO OF THE WEEK


Smoke billows from paddy waste stubble as it burns in a field near Jewar, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. (REUTERS/Altaf Hussain)


Is a green recovery possible? In the lead up to the US presidential election, a new brief from the Council examines the prospects for future transatlantic cooperation for a green COVID-19 recovery. Regardless of the election outcome, the brief finds that “underlying structures for cooperation among societal stakeholders in the United States need to be reinvigorated to diminish polarization in society, which could continue to block the transition to a low-carbon economy.   

 https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/calendar_icon.pngUPCOMING COUNCIL EVENTS

VIRTUAL: Private Sector Responsibility on Race, Equity, and Inclusion- Part 3
Date: November 9
Time: 8 a.m. CT

LIVE STREAM: Emerging Leaders Program November Information Session 
Date: November 9 
Time: 5:30 p.m. CT 

Did you miss one of our previous livestreams? Don't worry! They are all available on our website to watch at any time. 


Fields Ablaze: Farmers in states surrounding Delhi have begun burning their fields this year, contributing to the worst air pollution India’s capital has seen in two years. Almost three thousand crop waste fires are contributing roughly one third of the air pollution afflicting the city.

Climate Changing Gender Roles: For some pastoralists in Kenya, a changing climate means more than travelling farther to find pasture for livestock—it also means expanding the role of women. As men spend more time searching for grazing land or work far from home, more farming and breadwinning duties are being left to women. These include managing household finances and trading livestock.

Pest and Disease Outbreak:  Namibia is battling a swarm of migratory red locusts and a foot-and-mouth outbreak simultaneously, exemplifying what experts fear may become the norm as climate change intensifies. Teams of veterinarians are hard at work to vaccinate cattle in the hopes of protecting the nation’s prized free-range, hormone-free beef which is exported to China and the US.   

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/news_icon.pngDEEPER DIVE

Why are fields burning? The practice of stubble burning is common for Indian farmers. For many, it is the fastest way to clear fields of rice paddy straw and make way for wheat sowing. The rush to clear fields comes in part from government mandates to delay rice planting to allow for rains to restore groundwater. That puts a squeeze on the few weeks between rice and wheat seasons, thus making fire an attractive solution.  

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/chart_icon.pngDATA CRUNCH

Corn Sensitivity Grows: A new study suggests that corn yields are becoming more sensitive to soil moisture retention. Using satellite-based yield estimates and county-level soil data from the Midwest, scientists were able to identify growing drought sensitivity despite growing crop yields. Although the study examines the US, there may be implications for corn grown on nearly 300 million hectares around the world.    


Malnutrition Crisis in Yemen: The lives of almost 100,000 Yemeni children under five are in danger due to severe acute malnutrition, the UN is warning. More than half a million children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition as well. The UN describes the situation in Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.   


Fenced In: Millions of miles of fences wrap around the world, many for the purpose of keeping desired animals – often livestock – in and undesired animals out. New research points out that non-target species, however, frequently suffer unintended consequences from fencing, such as interruptions to migrations and changes in animal behavior. Smarter fencing solutions may be critical going forward. 


Imports on Track: The USDA and USTR released an interim report on China’s progress towards fulfilling its importation commitments under the “phase one” deal signed by President Trump in January. The report indicates that China has already met 71 percent of its agricultural obligations under the agreement, and that imports of beef, dairy, and grain have all increased significantly. While the headline numbers look positive for the agreement, some have pointed out that outside of agriculture, China is still not on track to fulfill its share of the phase one agreement. 

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/globe_icon.pngBIG ACTORS 

Continental Commitments: Approximately 900 delegates, including 95 government officials from 45 countries, met in the largest ever FAO Regional Conference for Africa this week. Delegates committed to promoting digital technologies in the agricultural sector. One example of innovative approaches to agriculture is the Hand-in-Hand initiative, implemented in 11 African nations. 

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/market_icon.pngTRADE & COMMODITIES

Bloc of Cheese: India’s efforts to wrap up bilateral trade deals with several major economies are facing strong opposition from politically influential dairy farmers in the country. India will likely become a milk-surplus nation in the next decade, raising concerns that free access to dairy imports could destroy the livelihood of tens of millions of people – mostly small and marginal landless farmers – who are engaged in the country’s milk production.   

 https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/calendar_icon.pngOTHER UPCOMING EVENTS

FAO Regional Conference for Europe
Date: November 2-4

Seizing Opportunity from the Jaws of Crisis: A Playbook for Nutrition
Date: December 10
Time: 9:00 a.m. CT

Please share any tips or thoughts on what we can do better here.


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.


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


| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.