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  • Author: Molly Jahn
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: US public investment in agricultural research in the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in unprecedented worldwide production of a few staple crops and the improvement of dozens more. Increased crop yields and animal production have drastically reduced famine compared to previous centuries and supported an overall increase in global affluence. Today, agricultural producers around the world are facing new challenges as global climate changes become increasingly unpredictable. Inconsistent rain, extreme temperatures, droughts, flooding, wildfires, and shifting pest and disease patterns are just a few of the obstacles farmers face as they try to feed their families and produce enough food to feed the world. In spite of these dire challenges, US public agricultural research funding has been decreasing over the past several decades. This has allowed competitors such as China and Brazil to outpace American ingenuity, take over American markets, and put American farmers at a disadvantage. The lack of investment in agricultural research and development is a critical national security concern. Historical US agricultural strength has contributed to US hard and soft power around the world. As the US food system is beset by increasing climate, economic, financial, and security threats, US rural communities have been left behind, undermining US power and domestic well-being. Increasing global food insecurity, which has been amplified by increasing weather extremes, will lead to economic and political instability in many areas of the world, further threatening US national security. Although the private sector plays a crucial role in the development of new agricultural techniques and products, public funding has been the backbone of many agriculture and food system advances. While agricultural research and development has historically focused primarily on increasing yields, this narrow focus does not adequately support the food requirements of today’s growing global population. There must be a revitalization of public investment in agricultural research, American food systems, and international agricultural development that focuses on the challenges of the future. US leadership is vital to ensuring the global research agenda does not leave farmers behind. Opportunities to build upon and enhance existing US agricultural research infrastructure across many diverse government entities abound. The US government should recognize these investment opportunities to address current and future climate challenges.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Climate Change, Environment, Research
  • Political Geography: China, Brazil, North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: David Nielson
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: Considering a Soil Initiative for Africa JANUARY 31, 2020 By: David Nielson In Sub-Saharan Africa, 65 percent of arable land suffers from soil degradation. The most extensive data on soils in Africa is grounded in soil mapping done in the 1950s and 1960s—60 to 70 years ago—which suggests that the problem could be even worse than currently known. This destruction is stifling agricultural productivity and income growth while prohibiting the soil from carrying out its climate control functions such as carbon sequestration and water filtration. This paper diagnoses the challenges faced by governments, international organizations and research institutions in mitigating and reversing the decline of soil quality in Africa. It highlights the dearth of human capital and resources that undermines these efforts and employs the lessons learned towards outlining a framework that is based on global partnership, stronger farmer engagement and robust investment. The paper argues for a new soil initiative that is organized around workstreams that prioritize establishing soil information systems, understanding the economic costs and consequences of soil degradation, and enhancing human and institutional capacity towards soil science. This multipronged approach will reinvigorate the fight against soil degradation and destruction both globally and on the African continent.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Environment, Government, Partnerships
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa