Poor Countries Need Assistance Developing Sustainable Agricultural Systems, USDA Undersecretary Says

Governments and aid groups must do more to help the world’s hungry develop sustainable agricultural systems, U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) Undersecretary James Miller said during an address Wednesday on the final day of the International Food Aid and Development Conference, the Associated Press reports (Hollingsworth, 8/4).

“According to U.S. government estimates, more than 1 billion people – nearly a sixth of the world’s population – suffer from acute hunger in developing countries. More than 3.5 million children die each year from hunger,” the Kansas City Star reports (Gikunju, 8/4).

At the conference, Miller discussed the U.S. Feed the Future initiative – a program geared towards bolstering local food “productivity and improving markets in places where regional trade may be limited and much of what is grown spoils before it reaches starving people,” the AP continues. The initiative also places “an emphasis on allowing poor nations to set priorities for aid projects,” the news service notes.

“We recognize that this is not a project that any one country can achieve on its own, but we are going to have to draw from the experiences, expertise and resources that exist across every part of the United States and all parts of the world – public resources and private resources alike,” Miller said.

Following a commitment by G8 leaders in July 2009 to contribute more than $20 billion to fight hunger after high food prices led to “a series of riots in some countries,” the Obama administration unveiled the U.S. plans to invest $3.5 billion over a three-year period in May 2010. “We will provide financial and technical assistance so that countries can find a way to not only feed the people that are so in need today but find ways to grow their economies so that they are more self sustaining in the future,” Miller said.

The AP article details Miller’s comments on future food challenges, the continued need for humanitarian assistance to help the poor and those facing disasters and the growing U.S. interest in tapping into mechanisms such as private money and trade to assist poor countries to become more able to feed their own populations. The article also includes comments from a manager from the Food for the Hungry group, who addresses the importance of country ownership in meeting hunger needs (8/4).

The Kansas City Star notes that participants from the African Growth and Opportunity Act Conference (AGOA) arrived in Kansas City Wednesday to continue their focus on “trade and investment relations between Africa and the United States. The AGOA Conference, which started on Monday in Washington, aims to boost Africa’s economic growth by easing access to the American market by eliminating trade tariffs,” the newspaper notes.

The newspaper also includes comments from Miller on the news that a drought in Russia is resulting in escalating wheat prices. “Miller said, the bumper wheat harvest in the United States will stabilize prices of the grain. … The USDA undersecretary predicted the bumper harvest expected in America will plug any shortfall in the international markets,” the newspaper writes.

“We’ll continue to see the volatility until harvesting in the Northern Hemisphere currently under way is concluded,” Miller said (8/4).

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