Eight major foundations announced Tuesday that they have launched an initiative to solve long-term national and international food and agriculture policy issues.
Called AGree, the effort is being funded by the Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and The Walton Family Foundation.
Four co-chairs lead the group: Dan Glickman, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton and a former congressman from Kansas for 18 years; Gary Hirshberg, chairman, president and “CE-Yo” of Stonyfield Farm; Jim Moseley, former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President George W. Bush and Indiana farmer for more than 40 years; and, Emmy Simmons, former assistant administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The group says its expertise is needed because over the next four decades there will be a 38 percent population increase — an additional 2.6 billion people in the world to feed — while 925 million people already suffer under-nutrition or hunger. At the same time, there is a limited amount of easily accessible arable land, increasing pressures on freshwater quality and availability and accelerating environmental degradation.
But competition and division among stakeholders on priorities such as environment, production, economy and nutrition have created an impasse, the group said, as lawmakers try to develop food and agriculture policies in the U.S. and abroad.
“Our current food system is broken for farmers, consumers and the environment,” Hirshberg said in the group’s news release. “We must move beyond the political knee-jerk defense of traditional agriculture and face the need for change armed with real-world, scientific facts and analysis that AGree can provide.”
AGree says it is “uniquely qualified” to bring an open mind to find new solutions. It says it will begin by convening a diverse set of stakeholders, including conventional and organic farmers, ranchers, nutritionists, energy experts, environmentalists, financiers, international aid veterans and public health specialists.
“AGree will fill a crucial void in current agriculture research and discussions that frequently do not consider solutions across multiple sectors such as environment, energy, rural economies and health,” the group stated.
The group said it will focus on U.S. food and agricultural policy with three goals: improving food productivity and the environmental viability of food production; increasing access to nutritious food; and improving economic opportunities in rural communities.
AGree also said:
— Agriculture issues need to be at the top of the U.S. and world agenda, alongside energy, healthcare and national security.
— Solving food and agriculture issues can help solve other pressing problems including public health and the need for economic growth.
— Dialogue across sectors will help find the right balance on conflicts in order to meet the broader public demands.
— U.S. domestic policies must be aligned with the growing needs in developing countries for food security, nutrition and equitable development.
“… The world can no longer afford to stay disjointed and uncompromising, shying away from the hard decisions necessary to address these problems,” the group stated.