Eight of the world's leading foundations launched AGree, a new initiative that will tackle long-term food and agriculture policy issues confronting the nation and the world as the population continues to grow and resources become ever-more constrained.
AGree is launching at a pivotal moment for food and agriculture policy. Over the next four decades there will be an additional 2.6 billion people on Earth to feed—a 38 percent population increase from today—in addition to the 925 million people who currently suffer under-nutrition or hunger. Simultaneously, the world faces a limited amount of easily accessible arable land, increasing pressures on freshwater quality and availability and accelerating environmental degradation.
Solutions to these challenges will require best-in-class research, comprehensive analysis and cross-sector dialogue—resources productively brought together for the first time under the AGree initiative. 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.
AGree's mission to nurture dialogue among diverse opinions on agriculture issues is embodied by the leaders of the initiative: 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 and a board member for several organizations engaged in international agriculture and global development.
"Agriculture issues need to be at the top of the United States' and world's agenda, alongside energy, healthcare and national security," Glickman said. "AGree will elevate the agriculture and food policy conversation. We will make it clear to leaders and policymakers that, while difficult, solving food and agriculture issues is of utmost importance and can help solve other pressing problems including public health and the need for economic growth," he said.
"Our current food system is broken for farmers, consumers and the environment," Hirshberg said. "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," Hirshberg said.
"Agriculture has evolved from simply producing food to feed people and now has numerous demands placed on it. As a result the current discussion on agriculture and food policy is having problems focusing on what is really important; stakeholders talk past one another and often fail to comprehend policy implications beyond a specific sector," Moseley said. "The key to solving these diverse policy questions is through dialogue across sectors. AGree will promote these conversations and help us find the right balance on these conflicts to meet the broader public demands we are experiencing," he said.
"We face a world where nearly a billion people already go hungry everyday; those numbers will continue to rise if we do not address underlying issues of quantity and quality of the world's food systems," Simmons said. "AGree can help align our domestic policies with the growing needs in developing countries for food security, nutrition and equitable development."
The past 20 years has created competition and division among stakeholders on priorities such as environment, production, economy and nutrition—creating an impasse as lawmakers try to develop food and agriculture policies here in the United States and abroad.
But the world can no longer afford to stay disjointed and uncompromising, shying away from the hard decisions necessary to address these problems.
AGree is uniquely qualified to foster these necessary answers by starting with an open mind to new solutions and 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 provide the first steps of genuine dialogue and insightful data that will enable effective and meaningful decisions about food and agriculture policy. The group will lay a path forward through sound solutions generated by careful research and analysis that can guide policymakers and stakeholders as they undertake this critical endeavor.
AGree is funded by 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.
For more information, visit www.foodandagpolicy.org.