St. Paul (June 11, 2012) – Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) President Doug Peterson returns from Rome, Italy and the World Farmers Organization (WFO) General Assembly. The WFO is an organization that brings together farmers from organizations that represent agriculture and their coops. Farmers from all agricultural sectors across the world gathered to create policies and advocate at a true farmer-level for the improvement of economic and social conditions and for world food security.
St. Paul (June 4, 2012) – Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) President Doug Peterson is leading a delegation of National Farmers Union Presidents at the World Farmers Organization (WFO) General Assembly in Rome, Italy, June 6-9.
“This is a great opportunity to hear from farmers from around the world about what works and does not work for their agriculture community,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. “Leading the National Farmers Union delegation on this trip will include telling other attendees about the plights of the small family farmer across the United States and how we fight for prosperity for rural folks.”
The objective of the General Assembly is to provide an opportunity to discuss WFO‘s statutory issues; as well as offer the possibility to farmers associations to discuss and share experiences in agriculture related key issues including trade, food security, climate change, education and awareness raising programs; sharing experiences on outreach activities, special programs, services, products; collecting best practices and case studies; stimulate cooperation and partnership among WFO’s members and agriculture related organizations; and build an interactive platform for sharing experiences and cooperation network.
(May 7, 2010) - Usually, reports from meetings of a group of country leaders don't attract our attention all that much, but articles written after a recent meeting of leaders from a handful of developing countries made us sit up and take notice. The event was a joint meeting of two overlapping groups of developing countries: BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and IBSA (India, Brazil, and South Africa) or as some have dubbed the combination BRICs.
These nations represent 42 percent of the world's population, 32 percent of the world's arable land mass, and 22 percent of the global GDP. They have been important in leading the global recovery following the recent economic crisis. They also see themselves as growing faster in the future than the US, the European Union, and Japan. And they want to use their new-found economic clout.
(April 30, 2010) - The US Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, and Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, coauthored an April 22, 2010 Wall Street Journal opinion piece announcing the "launching [of] the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program."
The goal of the "new fund [is] to help the world's poorest farmers grow more food and earn more than they do now so they can lift themselves out of hunger and poverty." According to the World Bank, small-holder farm families make up three-quarters of the world's population that is extremely impoverished.
While the goal of eliminating hunger and poverty around the world is decades old, the means that Geithner and Gates suggest for achieving that goal stands in contrast to much of the conventional wisdom of the last decade.
During the debates over the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha trade round, it was argued that an export-oriented agriculture in poor countries would allow the farmers in these countries to capitalize on their comparative advantage by producing export crops for developing countries-flowers, fruits, vegetables, cotton, and other specialty crops. It was then asserted that the earned revenue could then be used to purchase low cost grains and seeds from industrialized farmers in developed countries.
(November 27, 2009) - The current situation in production agriculture reminds one of the writers of this column, Harwood, of a question he often heard in his former profession as a country parish pastor. The question: "Is there a shortage of clergy to serve the churches?"
His answer updated for today goes like this. There is a surplus of clergy who want to serve suburban churches that pay $55,000 per year plus a generous housing allowance and that have a staff to carry ut youth work and visitation of the elderly.
At the same time there is a shortage of clergy who are willing to serve rural churches in which they are the only staff person-they have to type their own bulletin-and they earn $25,000 per year and, perhaps, have a parsonage to live in.
Let's now take those ideas to the topic of agricultural production. Is there a shortage of agricultural production in the world today, and, come 2050, when the world adds 3 billion people to the current population, will we be able to feed everyone?
Among the developed countries, including the major crop exporting countries of Brazil and Argentina, there is the capacity to significantly increase production to the point that crop and livestock prices will sit in the basement.
(November 13, 2009) - Our last two columns have taken a look at the role of agricultural policy in increasing food security and thus reducing the number of people who experience chronic hunger in developing countries. In our survey, we have identified policies that have had the effect of reducing the level of food security for many consumers and small-scale agriculturalists and pastoralists in developing countries.
At the same time, we have identified policies and practices that have the likelihood of increasing food security for the residents of those countries. In our experience, the best advice in the world will be ignored if those giving the advice are insensitive to the personal and cultural preferences of the people they are intending to help.
Food security will be enhanced if agricultural development specialists take local preferences as their starting point. Before they can do much, development specialists need to understand how, why, and what local farmers produce. Crop varieties and food preferences often vary from community to community, even within a small area.
(October 30, 2009) - Much of the time this column focuses on current issues in US agricultural policy: food safety rules, farm program payments, crop insurance, ethanol, and CAFOs, among others. But one of the things that we try to keep at the forefront of our analysis is that policies that are good for US farmers must not come at the expense of farmers elsewhere in the world.
The reason for this is that that the dynamics that determine the nature of US agriculture and agricultural markets are the same dynamics faced by farmers in other countries as well. For starters, one could identify weather-determined variability in production, diseases like Asian Soybean Rust and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, long periods of low prices punctuated by a sudden peak and subsequent decline in prices, and international markets that are controlled by a relatively few firms on both the input and marketing sides.
We recently attended a meeting where the concerns of farmers in developing countries were the focus of the discussion. As we listened and talked, it became apparent to us that if we were asked to help a country become more food secure so that it could ensure that its citizens had access to a reliable supply of nutritious foods, our answer would be the same whether we were asked the question two centuries ago, two decades ago, or two weeks ago.