Working to find solutions to the many problems posed by hunger and poverty have defined much of my professional life. As a former United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary and now as president of one of our nation's leading land-grant universities, I have seen first-hand the powerful difference American investment can make in addressing these significant global challenges.
In just a few days during World Food Prize Week in Des Moines, Iowa, the presidentially appointed advisory board to the United States Agency for International Development – the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) – will release the results of a study that show the strong benefits to the United States of international aid investments.
The report, "How the United States Benefits from Agricultural and Food Security Investments in Developing Countries," illustrates in great detail how American aid helps the people of the developing world, as well as American farmers, ranchers, consumers and taxpayers. This aid also plays a central role in enhancing both U.S. national security and global security and stability.
Given the projections of a world population of about 10 billion in 2050 and the impact of climate change on agriculture, investment in research through our U.S. universities is critical to meeting global food production demand. Conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, BIFAD's report shows that such investment not only benefits the recipients, but has a major impact on the U.S. economy and its global engagement.
Key benefits of agricultural foreign assistance include: stronger U.S. research capacity that benefits our nation's universities, increased U.S. agricultural productivity that benefits our farmers, increased agricultural trade and investments by U.S. firms that enhance economic growth and create new opportunities.
By strengthening agricultural and food systems in developing countries, U.S. foreign agricultural assistance contributes to global and national security. The overall benefit to both developing countries and U.S. producers and consumers far exceeds the costs and helps secure a better and safer future for all at a time when our world and our nation faces many challenges.
As BIFAD's report makes clear, international development programs are raising living standards and improving quality of life – creating economic opportunity, new consumers and opening markets to trade for American commodities – as a result of USAID and U.S. higher education collaboration and the investments of federal funding. Of course, as important as these economic and national security benefits are, I contend that international development which helps others is truly the right thing to do – and the American thing to do.