posted February 10, 2005: As the debate looms
over what should be included in the 2007 farm bill,
the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture suggests
a global approach to formulate policies that govern
food and agriculture.
These views are outlined in the draft of a new white
paper, "Toward a Global Food and Agriculture Policy."
The paper was written by a task force of agricultural
economists and policy experts convened by the Leopold
Center's Policy Initiative.
The task force includes Iowa State University economist
and professor emeritus Neil Harl; University of Tennessee
economist Daryll Ray; Traci Bruckner from the Center
for Rural Affairs in Walthill, Nebraska; Mark Ritchie
from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
in Minneapolis; and former Iowa state senator Paul Johnson,
who directed the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation
Service during the 1990s. Leopold Center director Fred
Kirschenmann and associate director Mike Duffy also
joined the discussions that have taken place over the
"It may be a cliché to say that agriculture
is at a crossroads, but agriculture is at one of those
life crossroads," says Duffy, who leads the Leopold
Center's Policy Initiative and is an ISU extension economist.
"And before we can have a meaningful debate, we
must recognize that agriculture is entirely different
from when the current farm programs were conceived."
The first national farm policies were implemented in
the 1930s during the Depression. The country's desperate
economic state, as well as decade-old economic problems
in the agricultural sector, generated political support
for a bold shift in farm policy. Secretary of Agriculture
Henry A. Wallace was given unprecedented power to attempt
to balance demand and supply, soil conservation legislation
was passed, bills to provide credit for agriculture
were enacted and rural electrification was given a huge
The Leopold Center task force report outlines current
U.S. price and income policies and the structural transformation
that is occurring not only here but also in the rest
of the world. The report also points to resource and
conservation needs in a global agricultural economy,
including energy as an essential component of agricultural
"To be assured of any measure of success, a global
food and agriculture policy should address several key
policy problems," the report states. Areas examined
- Third World economic development,
- Food safety,
- Food security,
- Sharing germ plasm,
- Conservation and the environment,
- International trade,
- Coping with excess supply, and
- Other factors such as a dwindling supply of energy
from conventional sources, water quality issues and
"Our group doesn’t pretend to have the answers
to craft a comprehensive global agricultural policy,"
Duffy said. "We only hope that the paper will get
the discussion started. Like it or not, we are part
of a global society and we need to start thinking and
acting like one. Agriculture is the best place to start."
Duffy noted that the Leopold Center's Policy Initiative
provides information for policy debates, but does not
promote specific legislation.
He said the task force feels strongly about the need
for a global policy, calling it "the challenge
of this generation, perhaps the first generation to
have the means and the inclination to lay the foundation
for international support for a global food and agriculture
The third draft of the white paper, "Toward a
Global Food and Agriculture Policy," is available
on the Leopold Center web site at: www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/staff/policy/globalag.pdf,
or by calling the Leopold Center at (515) 294-3711.
Duffy also invites questions and comments on the draft
of the report, which may be discussed at a future roundtable.
Duffy can be reached at (515) 294-6160.