Ag News

Increasing foreign ag productivity focus of roundtable

Sen. Johnny Isakson and Rep. Austin Scott hosted a roundtable discussion about addressing global hunger in a meeting on Sept. 21 in Tifton.

The discussion, which included food security experts from a variety of non-government organizations (NGOs) and university researchers, was intended to highlight the work of Georgia's agriculture community and begin discussions focused on the reauthorization of the Global Food Security Act in 2018.

Isakson, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said foreign aid programs are politically easy targets for spending reductions but noted that U.S. expenditures on foreign aid represent a solid investment of taxpayers' money.

"On the foreign relations committee, I've come to learn how important for the future strength of our country and future peace in the world it is for us to be occasionally involved in the problems of the world, and hunger is one of the big ones. Food security is critically important," Isakson said.

Much of the discussion centered on coupling humanitarian food shipments with sharing U.S. agriculture production knowledge, allowing people in less-developed countries to learn how to feed themselves and achieve economic growth.

Matt Moore, director of strategic initiatives with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, told the story of a farmer in Tanzania who in 10 years has increased his corn yield six-fold.

"Instead of just growing enough corn to feed his family, he can now grow enough corn to send to market, and that means that now he can afford to send his daughter to school. Now he can afford a metal roof for his house," Moore said.

UGA Professor of Agriculture and Applied Economics Greg Fonsah emphasized the seriousness of food security issues in sub-Saharan Africa, the location of many of the least agriculturally productive countries in the world. Fonsah said more emphasis in the Global Food Security Act should be placed on sharing of research because these countries cannot feed themselves now and as their populations grow accessibility of food will become a much greater concern.

"Our target should be to increase productivity," Fonsah said. "When we are talking about food security, we are coming to, really, a catastrophic situation."