Jul 15, 2022 | Blog

Global Food Insecurity Concerns Mount

Alliance Reps Advocate for Western Farms
As Global Food Insecurity Concerns Mount

Driven by concerns of rising food prices and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Family Farm Alliance board of directors at its meetings in Reno last February prioritized the need to improve communications on what rising inflation and the Ukraine crisis means to American consumers.

The Alliance continues its efforts to educate the public and policy makers, as global realization of the looming food crisis grows every day.

A Wake-up Call to Our National Leaders from an American Rancher

The Alliance in March released a brief report – “A Wake-up Call to Our National Leaders from an American Rancher” – which further describes current and projected food shortages resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war. Alliance President Patrick O’Toole emphasizes that food security is something that Alliance leaders have warned policymakers about for over fifteen years.

The Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) Report in 2010 first quantified the difference between the current rate of agricultural productivity growth and the pace required to meet future world food needs. That report predicted that total global agricultural output would have to be doubled by the year 2050 to meet the food needs of a growing global population.

Western Drought Policies Hurt Western Food Production

Nearly the entire state of California, which has the nation’s largest agricultural economy by far (and is ranked in the top 10 in the world) is currently in the “severe” drought category or worse, and three-quarters is experiencing “extreme” to “exceptional” drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor.

California’s agricultural economy last year shouldered $1.2 billion in direct costs due to drought. California Farm Water Coalition estimates that up to 690,000 acres of California farmland will go fallow this year.

Undoubtedly, the Western drought has reduced the amount of water for many users, including irrigated agriculture. However, in places like California and Oregon, much of the water that once flowed to farms and ranches is currently being re-directed by the federal government for environmental purposes.

In other words, federal water policy is shutting down water availability for hundreds of thousands of acres of productive farmland.

At a time when the future of Ukraine’s ability to help feed the outside world is at risk, our ability to increase productivity is being further curtailed. The grim global hunger conditions we once expected to encounter in 2050 may now hit us decades sooner.

Record Hunger on the Rise

Last week, the State of Food and Nutrition in the World 2022 (SOFI) report showed that after years of seeing global hunger numbers drop, it is back – and at record levels and rising.

“The numbers released last week….were incredibly disheartening,” said Ernie Shea, President of Solutions from the Land (SfL), a long-time ally of the Family Farm Alliance.

The report shows that an unprecedented count of up to 828 million people went hungry in 2021, an increase of 46 million from the previous year and a leap of 150 million people since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. World leaders fear global price spikes in food, fuel and fertilizers will lead to widespread famine, prompting global destabilization, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale.

SfL continues to be actively involved in finding answers to the ongoing global food security issues. SfL Farmer Envoy Adrienne Mollor, a second-generation cranberry grower in Massachusetts, is participating today in a high-level, UN-sponsored event in New York City being held to explore policy solutions to the growing global food and nutrition security crisis.

Ms. Mollor’s participation also delivers on a key SfL guiding principle – that farmers must be at the center of food and nutrition security discussions and decisions.

CLICK HERE for SfL’s blog post on the SOFI report.

Millions in Sri Lanka Face Food Crisis

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country early on Wednesday, just days after thousands of protesters stormed his residence over the nation’s crippling economic crisis. This came after months of demonstrations against Sri Lankan officials as the South Asian country grapples with severe food and fuel shortages and skyrocketing inflation.

Canadian Broadcasting Association reports that domestic food production also took a hit by the government of Sri Lanka’s April 2021 decision to ban the importation of chemical fertilizers and agrichemicals, including herbicides and pesticides, in an apparent shift to organic agriculture. But the move was abrupt, with no plan to import organic fertilizers and no boost in domestic production.

By the time the ban was partially reversed in November, farmers reported a 40 to 50 per cent loss in rice paddy crops. Fruit, vegetable and tea crops also suffered.

“Low-income households are the hardest hit and [are] adopting negative coping strategies,” , the UN’s Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, told the Daily Mirror last month.

The cost of chemical fertilizer has also risen dramatically since that time, amid a global shortage, leaving farmers in the lurch.

When Farmers Revolt

Farmers in the Netherlands are taking to the streets in anger, protesting sweeping environmental policy change that threatens to upend the extraordinary agricultural productivity of the tiny country, which ranks second only to the U.S. in global exports. Amazingly, the Netherlands accomplished that impressive output with a land base that is approximately 270 times smaller than that of the U.S. – roughly one-third the size of Wisconsin.

In December 2021, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency released a 13-year, 25-billion-euro plan to cut nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions by 50% by 2030. The plan in its current state would reduce the Netherlands’ population of cattle, pigs, and poultry by roughly 30%. The potential methods of doing so include voluntary buy-outs, relocation, and even expropriation – forced sale of emission rights and even land itself to the state (Dairy Herd Management).

Farmers have taken their frustrations to the streets by blocking highways, storming a provincial assembly and driving a caravan of tractors into the heart of the country’s administrative and royal capitol city, The Hague. The protests have ensued for nearly three years, with a massive “freedom convoy” of trucks, tractors, and other farm implements currently rolling across the country (Farm Progress).

“U.S. farmers need to make sure they still can keep producing food for the world and maintain national security,” Farm Progress policy editor Jacqui Fatka recently wrote. “Let’s hope U.S. farmers continue to have strong advocates…to keep U.S. farmers in business. Otherwise, U.S. farmers might be next storming the streets of our capitol to object to policy decisions.”

Family Farm Alliance Engagement

Meanwhile, back in the Western U.S., Family Farm Alliance leaders continue to advocate for Western irrigated agriculture and American food security.

Alliance President O’Toole – who was recently inducted into the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame, along with his wife Sharon – yesterday participated in the closing panel of the University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) 2022 Annual Conference, Arizona’s Agricultural Outlook: Water, Climate and Sustainability. Pat was joined on the panel by Meghan Scott (Noble Law) and Grady Gammage Jr. (Gammage & Burnham). Dr. Sharon Megdal, WRRC Director, moderated the discussion.

Former Alliance board member Ron Rayner (A Tumbling T Ranch) participated in a “storytelling” panel, and his son, Ross, provided the “Next Generation” farmers’ perspective on another panel. Alliance Advisory Committee Member Tom Davis (Yuma County Water Users Association) provided a historical account of irrigated agriculture in the Yuma area.

A video of the conference proceedings can be accessed by the public during the week of July 18. For more information, go to wrrc.arizona.edu.

July is Smart Irrigation month, and Jim Lauria (Mazzei Injector Company) and Adam Tank (Transcend Water) conduct an interview with Dan Keppen, Family Farm Alliance Executive Director, entitled “Expanding Your Solution Story To Reach Diverse Stakeholders”. This is the second in the Smart Irrigation Voices series, sponsored by Water Online.

Dan, Jim and Adam on during the “Water We Talking About?” podcast discuss a variety of topics, including why food security starts with water security. More “Water We Talking About?” episodes can be found here.

We will continue to keep you informed on this and other developments impacting Western irrigated agriculture.
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