August 20, 2013

Guest Commentary - What the Global Food Security Act of 2013 can do for agriculture development

By David Hong and Stephanie Hanson
This was originally posted on ONE Campaign Blog 

Smallholder farmers are the largest population of poor people in the world. If we want to tackle global poverty, we have to address agriculture. The US government has prioritized agriculture development in Feed the Future, its $3.5 billion global hunger and food security initiative. Established in 2009, Feed the Future is designed to empower farmers so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. In just a few years, this Presidential initiative has demonstrated some solid results.

But Feed the Future is not authorized in legislation, which means that it could be deprioritized when a new president takes office. In 2009, Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind., proposed global food security legislation that would have authorized $10 billion in spending over five years. That bill died in committee.

Last month, Representative Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., committed food security champions, along with Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., a rising star in international affairs, introduced the Global Food Security Act of 2013 (H.R. 2822). The bill is an opportunity to ensure that the United States continues to make long-term investments in agriculture development. The bill does the following:

- Appoints a special coordinator for food, nutrition and agriculture development. This individual would oversee all US efforts against hunger, which are spread across multiple agencies. This role is important because agencies as diverse as USAID, USDA and the US Treasury are all involved in food security work, but coordination among agencies is challenging.

- Calls for a whole-of-government strategy that prioritizes smallholder farmer-led agriculture development. It is particularly important that US food security efforts focus on smallholder farmers, who have the biggest opportunity to sustainably intensify their production, and the greatest need to increase their incomes. One Acre Fund farmers are able to double their income per planted acre with a simple package of seed and fertilizer, financing, extension and market facilitation. Farmers can move from being food insecure to producing enough food for their neighbors in one year. All they need are the tools and knowledge to intensify production and access markets.

- Requires reporting of concrete results each year. The bill specifies metrics for annual measurement that include improved nutritional status of women and children; inclusive, sustainable agricultural sector growth; changes in agricultural sector GDP; changes in rural income levels; and knowledge of smallholder farmers regarding effective farming practices.

One way to strengthen the bill would be to include language supporting the role of the private sector, which includes farmers, traders and agribusinesses. Together with support from development partners and host governments, private companies buy food from farmers and provide important inputs like improved seeds, affordable fertilizer, and access to financing.

ONE and One Acre Fund, in addition to 31 other NGOs, issued a statement of support for the bill. We believe that the bipartisan Global Food Security Act is a positive step forward in building the political will needed to end global hunger and malnutrition in this generation.

What’s next for this bill? It needs to have more cosponsors and will need to be taken up by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Meanwhile, Senator Bob Casey is spearheading the effort to develop a comparable bill in the Senate.

To show support for this important legislation, we urge you to contact your Representative in the House and ask him or her to co-sponsor the bill. Additionally, you should reach out to your Senator and ask him or her to support Senator Casey’s efforts to develop a similar bill.


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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