The World Food Prize and the Borlaug Dialogue have a special place in the heart of the Department of State’s Economic and Business Affairs Bureau (EB). Every year several EB team leaders travel to Des Moines, Iowa to participate in the Dialogue and the formal presentation of the Prize. This annual week-long series of events brings together–both virtually and in person–over 1,200 agricultural sector policymakers, companies, academics, and farmers from some 65 countries to discuss the latest issue and innovations in agriculture and food. With one in three people globally not having access to adequate food and the situation having worsened in recent years, the links between food systems, climate change, and economic security is more important than ever. As EB’s Senior Bureau Official, I took that message to Des Moines on October 20-22, as the Department continued its long-standing support of this Dialogue.
Food systems is an area where the links between our foreign policy and our domestic renewal are especially clear, and where EB’s advocacy to advance our interests globally has clear benefits for America’s middle class. The Office of Agricultural Policy is responsible for analyzing the links between economics and agricultural trade, biotechnology, climate change, and food security and working to advance the interests of the U.S. government and people in all of these areas.
The devastating impacts of climate change on food production and food security were at the top of many minds in Iowa.Matt MurraySenior Bureau Official, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
The vision of Iowa native Norman Borlaug, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for work that saved more than one billion people from starvation, and for whom the annual World Food Prize Foundation dialogue is named, was one of optimism – that science and innovation could solve seemingly intractable problems. It’s a vision that is as important today as ever, given the challenges currently facing global food systems – from the COVID pandemic to geopolitical conflicts, to the effects of climate change. In line with this, The World Food Prize is awarded for a specific, exceptionally significant, individual achievement that advances human development with a demonstrable increase in the quantity, quality, availability of, or access to food through creative interventions at any point within the food system.
In Des Moines, I met with foreign officials, agricultural scientists, and representatives from over 50 American companies in the food and agricultural sectors and beyond. We explained that in every interaction we have, whether it’s with a foreign ally or a competitor, we are focused on America’s middle class. We fight for open and fair markets for American exports and work to ensure the global supply chains that the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn so much attention to are resilient and serve the needs of American businesses and consumers.
The devastating impacts of climate change on food production and food security were at the top of many minds in Iowa. Planting and harvesting seasons are shifting for America’s farmers, rainfall variations and pest pressures are increasing, and severe weather events are imperiling agricultural land, crops, equipment and buildings – all at a tremendous cost to America’s farmers and workers and our country’s economic and national security. Agricultural innovation has an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis. America’s farmers, agricultural scientists, and businesses are on the front lines of developing the new technologies and strategies to both mitigate and adapt to climate change’s impacts on agriculture.
In a meeting with dozens of companies organized by the Iowa Business Council and the Greater Des Moines Partnership, I made the point that cutting-edge tools in science and innovation must be available as we seek to address the climate crisis. The Agricultural Policy Office actively encourages the adoption of biotech through the use of our Biotech Outreach Funds, which provide vital information about the benefits of these technologies. We also work to ensure biotechnology and related tools are not blocked by regulatory barriers in other countries – often without evidence or scientific-backing – because farmers in every corner of the globe should have access to diverse and effective tools to tackle the climate crisis and ensure our global food systems are resilient and sustainable.
The United Nations Food Systems Summit in September brought together tens of thousands of people – from senior government officials to businesspeople, scientists, and a vast array of civil society groups – to focus on transforming global food systems and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The Biden-Harris administration concurrently made a $10 billion commitment to end hunger and invest in food systems at home and abroad.
Engaging domestic audiences in Des Moines, from the private sector to civil society, helped increase their understanding of how EB’s work aims to improve the lives of average Americans, and how the distance between our foreign policy and our domestic renewal is smaller than ever. Economic affairs are interwoven with all aspects of life and promote the security and well-being of the American people. By meeting with the private sector and having conversations on both agricultural and economic concerns, we are able to reaffirm our commitment to promoting a strong economy that will benefit the American people.
About the Author: Matt Murray is the Senior Bureau Official in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB). In this role, Matt leads EB’s efforts to create jobs at home, boost economic opportunities overseas, and make America more secure.