Clinton Renews U.S. Commitment to Agricultural Development

May 10, 2011 By Molly Lester

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton capped off a three-day trip to Rome, Italy last week by speaking to the Food and Agriculture Organization on Friday.  Secretary Clinton spoke about global food security and how U.S. programs in agricultural development, through the Feed the Future initiative, were “maintaining, indeed deepening our commitment to sustainable agriculture and food security.”  With global food prices up more than thirty percent over April 2010, Clinton said that “we must act now effectively and cooperatively to blunt the negative impact of rising food prices and protect people and communities. We need to respond to the current climb in prices with immediate action while simultaneously deepening our commitment to long-term investments in agriculture and food security worldwide.”

Clinton used the speech to highlight the cooperative efforts of the public, private and non-profit sectors to pursue “a common vision with a coordinated approach” towards achieving food security.  By drawing on public-private partnerships and UN organizations, food assistance organizations can balance the short-term needs of ameliorating hunger with the longer-terms goals of agricultural development.  Feed the Future, launched in Rome in 2009 with a commitment of $3.5 billion over three years, represents a “reversal of a decades-long decline in investment” in food security.  Through this initiative, the U.S. is “intending and achieving the goals of strengthening the entire agricultural chain” and adopting a “smart, strategic approach” that will “increase agricultural productivity, decrease poverty, drive economic growth, and reduce under-nutrition that will enable millions of children to be on a better path toward the future.”  According to Clinton, “All of these efforts are dependent on and defined by partnership among countries, private companies, NGOs, foundations, and civil society along with multilateral organizations.”

“No one group or agency can respond to the historic challenge of food insecurity alone,” said WFP Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla, but with a targeted, coordinated approach across agencies, countries, and organizations, Secretary Clinton believes that “[w]e can make this happen together by making this a cause of our time.”  Fully funding the agricultural assistance programs in the International Affairs Budget sends the strong signal to the world of the “high priority accorded by the United States and President Obama’s administration to the issue of food security,” as FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in his opening remarks.   A renewed commitment to agricultural development matched by sufficient resources is necessary because, Clinton said, “…if we do not act now to increase the opportunity for food security, we may never catch up. Demography, climate, other problems are militating against our efforts, which therefore requires us to be even more determined. Let’s move relentlessly ahead in advancing food security not only for more of the world’s people, but a goal of all of the world’s people.”