October 16 marks World Food Day, a day that has special significance in 2020, as COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on global food security and food systems. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that COVID-19 will drive an additional 130 million more people into food insecurity. Northwestern University recently estimated that the rate of food-insecure households, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as, “household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food,” has more than doubled, from 10.5 percent of American households to 23 percent of American households, as a result of the pandemic.
It is no surprise that the recently announced 2020 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the World Food Programme for its efforts to combat hunger.
This week, the global community of NGOs, think tanks, academia, government, and industry leaders came together for the annual World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue. The Dialogue centered around assessing the toll the pandemic has taken on food security and food systems and developing recommendations for rebuilding a more resilient food system. Several new reports were launched this week, including one from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which suggests governments need to double investment in food security to end hunger by 2030.
“The world produces enough food to feed everyone,” Maximo Torero, FAO’s chief economist, said. “So, it's unacceptable that 690 million people are undernourished, 2 billion don't have regular access to sufficient amounts of safe, nutritious food, and 3 billion people cannot afford healthy diets. If rich countries double their aid commitments and help poor countries to prioritize, properly target and scale up cost-effective interventions on agricultural R&D, technology, innovation, education, social protection and on trade facilitation, we can end hunger by 2030."
The 2020 Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP Report) from the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences explores the impact of disease and pest outbreaks on agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability. The 2020 GAP report found that to sustainably double the amount of food, feed, fiber, and bioenergy needed for nearly 10 billion people in 2050, and agricultural productivity needs to increase at an average annual rate of 1.73 percent. According to the 2020 GAP Index, total factor productivity (TFP) growth is below the target, growing at an average annual rate of 1.63 percent. And the growth rate falls further behind in low-income countries, where access to nutritious, affordable, and safe food is even more critical.
While there is a long term productivity gap, U.S. farmers know all too well that today there is a global surplus of commodities. Farmers produce enough food to feed everyone. The immediate challenge is overcoming the barriers that prevent nutritious, safe food from making its way to the people who need it.
NCGA promotes the removal of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers that prevent more free trade flows of commodities from areas of abundance to areas of need. NCGA has a long record of pushing for transportation infrastructure investment, which facilitates more efficient trade. NCGA is also working for the advancement of agricultural R&D, innovation, and conservation practices to help farmers meet food security needs sustainably. These principles, in addition to the strong collective voice NCGA represents for its farmer members, are relevant and applicable to helping farmers in many different geographies and contexts improve their livelihoods and achieve a more food secure future.