December 06, 2010

Feeding The World's Hungry Enhances Security

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Every nation faces poverty and food insecurity challenges. However, we are blessed as Americans to live in a country with a productive farming industry cultivating a safe, abundant and affordable food supply nourishing families worldwide. Idaho farmers and ranchers produce far more than is consumed in the state. The same cannot be said for many areas of this world. While efforts continue to provide necessary food aid, agricultural development assistance and shared research and production innovation, it is in our nation's humanitarian, diplomatic, strategic and economic best interest to remove obstacles preventing U.S. producers from reaching more of the world's hungry.

In recognition of the holiday season, the American Farm Bureau reported that a dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and the basic trimmings costs an average of $4.35 per person. An overwhelming number of families worldwide cannot rely on a plentiful, healthy, reasonably-priced and reliable food supply. For example, natural disasters, including the earthquake in Haiti and flood in Pakistan, have caused massive infrastructure destruction and impeded access to food. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates there are 925 million worldwide who will suffer from chronic hunger this year alone. Intolerable for many reasons, hunger triggers great suffering, desperation, threatens stability and undercuts economic growth.

In a report released in November, the FAO found that world food prices "have risen alarmingly," and "given the expectation of falling global inventories, the size of next year's crops will be critical in setting the tone for stability in international markets." Our nation's farmers are doing their part to feed the world's hungry, and they face enormous challenges--significant energy, fertilizer and other input costs; risks, such as natural disaster; increased pressure to produce more on less land; mounting regulation; and foreign market trade barriers. Our farmers are emissaries of stability, because basic food security is at the core of human survival. It is best to get out of their way.

We must quickly remove trade barriers that prevent America's plentiful food supply from reaching more of the world's hungry. An essential step is passing and implementing our nation's pending free trade agreements and aggressively seeking additional market access opportunities. It is disappointing that President Obama returned from South Korea recently without an agreement to advance the trade agreement signed with South Korea more than three years ago. The free trade agreements signed with Colombia more than four years ago and Panama more than three years ago also continue to languish. The people and democratic governments of South Korea, Colombia and Panama, who expended considerable capital to negotiate the agreements and can benefit from greater access to American food and products, deserve a congressional vote on the agreements. American producers, who will gain better market access, deserve the support of Congress. Additionally, our nation's economy could use the financial boost expected through increased exports.

Our nation has been blessed with abundance, and we have shared these blessings with the world. However, we can always do more to extinguish the suffering of hunger around the world. Let's better liberate American innovation and production to best prevent the tragedy and instability of hunger. Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, an agronomist engineer who developed crop varieties and agricultural production practices credited with saving more than a billion people from malnourishment, said, "If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace."

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