Even More Food Security

April 26, 2010 By Joel Paque

At a Senate hearing and the announcement of a new World Bank trust fund last week, the Administration highlighted its view of global food security as an essential element of national and economic security as well as a humanitarian imperative.

While the announcement of a new bipartisan Global Food Security Act wasn’t on the Senate hearing agenda, as had been anticipated, both Congress and the Administration expressed their support for a more robust and strategic approach to the problem of global hunger. On the other end of Pennsylvania Ave, the Administration’s food security implementation plan is to be released on May 20, and, Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew and USAID Administrator Raj Shah testified before the committee to provide an update of the Administration’s Feed the Future initiative. Deputy Secretary Lew began by outlining the Administration’s commitment to a smart power agenda, stating, “President Obama and Secretary Clinton have committed the United States to a new vision for development—one that embraces development as a strategic, economic, and moral imperative, as central to solving global problems and advancing American national security as diplomacy and defense.” Administrator Shah reinforced how food security is not only about “our moral obligation as a great nation” but that, “The food security of developing nations is integral to our national security.”

Administrator Shah provided an outline of how USAID is reshaping its food security programs to better tackle the issue. First, USAID will advance a robust research agenda; secondly, USAID will increase support entrepreneurial, market-based approaches to agricultural growth; and third, USAID will target investments that assist women in the agricultural supply train, who represent a majority of the farming labor in USAID’s target countries.

Additional witnesses at the hearing included the Center for U.S. Global Leadership’s Chairman, Dan Glickman, and Catherine Bertini, testifying in their capacities as Co-chairs of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Agricultural Development Initiative. Glickman and Bertini, applauded the Administration’s efforts so far on the issue of food security, but stressed that more still needed to be done, stating that, “Advancing global food security will continue to be in America’s economic, security, and diplomatic interests for the foreseeable future.”

The Obama Administration also plans to use established multi-lateral programs as part of its initiative to enhance food security in the developing world, including the announcement last week by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s of initial contributions totaling $880 million to a new Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. The fund, hosted by the World Bank Group, was created following a call for better donor coordination on this issue at the G20 meetings in Pittsburgh last year.   “A global economy where more than one billion people suffer from hunger is not a sustainable one,” said Geithner, pledging a U.S. contribution of $475 million.   U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack laid out the principles that guide the funds as raising agriculture production, linking farmers to markets, and technical assistance.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also pledged $30 million to the fund, in addition to contributions from the United States, Canadian, Spanish and South Korean governments.