Since the global food crisis in 2008, the world has seen increased interest in agricultural development to alleviate poverty, spur economic growth, and advance food security. New research, new players, and additional resources have cropped up across the traditional landscape. Yet current resource tracking efforts by agencies and advocates alike do not provide a comprehensive sense of the size and nature of those investments. In light of this, The Chicago Council has launched a new project, "Global Food Security by the Numbers," to map current US investments and generate discussion about the types of activities and agencies engaged in global food security efforts.
Preparing for Future Challenges
Experts predict that food production must increase by 60 percent by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing population. Increasing production by that magnitude will require farmers to produce as much food over the next 40 years as they have in thousands of years to date. But this task is made more challenging because arable land is limited, water is scarce, and weather is changing. Growing more nutrient rich foods- like fruits, vegetables, and pulses - to help curb rising rates of micronutrient deficiencies and diet-related chronic diseases - adds another layer of complexity. So does ensuring the development of local markets that empower smallholder farmers, many of whom are women.
It’s important for the US and other countries to get ahead of these challenges not only to end global hunger, but because of the link to national security and social stability. High and volatile food prices have been correlated with unrest and were one of the precipitating conditions of the Arab Spring. In order to better inform future decisions about resource allocation, improved accounting of current US investments in food security is needed.
Current Tracking of USG Global Food Security Investments is Insufficient
After decades of declining investments, global agricultural development programs and approaches have seen renewed attention in recent years. The Administration launched the agricultural development initiative known as Feed the Future, and Congress began appropriating roughly $1 billion annually. The US Department of Agriculture began funding research examining the impacts of natural resource shortages, climate change, and nutrition challenges on food production. The National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health have expanded research in agriculture and nutrition science. Country compacts made through the Millennium Challenge Corporation are supporting rural infrastructure in low-income countries, helping to facilitate agricultural markets and attract business investment. And nutrient fortification efforts are getting increased attention from the Centers for Disease Control.
While the overall funding level for Feed the Future is now referenced in accounting efforts, there are few detailed breakdowns, and the majority of today’s budget reporting and analysis still focuses on a more traditional definition of agricultural development and food assistance programs. Most analysis pulls from varying subsets of food aid and agricultural development accounts overseen by the following committees:
Depending on organizational interest, portions of the following State and Foreign Operations accounts are sometimes included:
Rethinking the Global Food Security Accounts
Agriculture as a means to support global food security is a complex development issue. It is linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, the environment, trade, and gender. The 114th Congress has the opportunity to pass a global food security strategy, invest in African power and energy upgrades, and build much-needed capacity to implement upcoming trade agreements. These investments span the jurisdiction and oversight of several congressional committees and various implementing agencies within the Administration.
As momentum grows for a sustainable and integrated approach to agricultural development and food security, The Chicago Council's project "Global Food Security by the Numbers" will inform thinking around current levels of US government investment. In an era of tight budgets, an improved accounting of how funds are being spent is a vital decision-making tool for the US Congress and Administration. The Council expects to release the findings in summer 2015.
This project is being spearheaded by The Chicago Council's Global Agriculture & Food Washington, DC team. For more information, please contact Ashleigh Black or Grace Burton.