Farmers Seek Bigger Voice in Addressing Global Food System Issues

April 7, 2021

In its ongoing effort to ensure that the voice of U.S. farmers, ranchers and forestland owners is being heard in food system discussions that are continuously taking place on the world stage, Solutions from the Land (SfL) and a group of collaborating agricultural organizations this week held a “dialogue for producers, who shared their experiences, insight and recommendations in anticipation UN Food Systems Summit (FSS) expected to be held this fall.

Those who actually work the land and forests have been woefully underrepresented in the global negotiations, a shortfall that SfL has been working to overcome. Perhaps the clearest and most-important result of the dialogue was evidence that the farmer voice is essential in development of food and agriculture policy.

Food-system success is inseparable from farmer success. Farmers make the investments and bear the risks of each year’s production. They are directly responsible for food products and are often the ones affected by hunger and malnutrition worldwide. These points lead to a singular conclusion: farmer success equals food system success.

The dialogue, a virtual event, drew together a wide cross section of producers whose work together underlined the importance of building a worldwide coalition of farmer voices that must be heard at the FSS. The participants discussed topics to be considered under an FSS “action track” ‑ “Boost Nature Positive Production at Sufficient Scale.” (The track is one of five laid out for the global summit, the date of which has yet to be set.)

This fall’s food summit will be the first in 25 years, and stakeholders across the globe are weighing in with their suggestions for changes to our food systems, heightening the need for farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to make their voices heard now and often,

Specifically, the action track under the focus of Tuesday’s discussion aims to deepen understanding among global negotiators of the constraints and opportunities facing farmers and enterprises along the food value chain. The track is also designed to support food system governance that better realigns the incentives that can enhance productivity, improve resilience, reduce food losses, mitigate climate change and address other global challenges.

Within those parameters, dialogue participants offered personal recommendations aimed at optimizing the use of environmental resources in food production, processing and distribution, all in a way that reduces the loss of biodiversity, pollution, water use, soil degradation and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The event offered the experience for growers to learn from each other on ways to improve efficiency and provide stability to our food system.

Discussion Tuesday also included 24 proposed “solutions” offered by the FSS Action Track 3 team that could bring greater stability to the global food system, divided among three functions: protect, manage and restore. For example, in the “protect” column was a call to achieve a just transition to sustainable agriculture through policy reform and public support. Among the recommendations under the “manage” header is a call for the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices for resilient landscapes at scale. Included in the proposals in the “restore” column is a measure that calls for the revival of grassland, shrublands and savannahs through extensive livestock-based feeding systems.

Another key takeaway from Tuesday’s dialogue is that operations must be profitable for ag lands to deliver on food security and contribute to other sustainable development goals, like restoring clean water, producing clean energy and stemming climate change. Dialogue participants also called for increased investment in agricultural research, the promotion of innovation and technology pathways that are key to continuing improvements, and the reform of conflicting regulations that present a significant barrier to food systems security.

The event also underscored the reality that growers can learn from each other, sharing ways to improve efficiency and other means to attain sustainability.

Farmers face accusations of environmental degradation, yet they are the vanguard of adapting the holistic “circle of life” to modern agriculture. In Tuesday’s dialogue, several farmers shared personal experiences of meetings with environmental regulators that ended with their better understanding the need for regulation and regulators understanding how to work with farmers rather than against them. The dialogue drew American farmers who believe that their innovation – and their collaborative approach to change – can translate to other farmers and other cultures around the world. Sfl appreciated the opportunity to facilitate this timely discussion and invites farmers and livestock producers across the globe to join us in advancing pragmatic solutions from the land.

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