Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
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Presidential candidates disappoint ex-laureate

By Christopher Doering on October 17, 2012
© Dan Piller

Presidential candidates disappoint ex-laureate

Former World Food Prize laureate David Beckmann said Wednesday he was disappointed that neither President Barack Obama nor Republican challenger Mitt Romney discussed world or national hunger problems at their debate Tuesday night.

“One in five children in this country can be classified as food insecure, yet the candidates have apparently agreed to not talk about the issue,” Beckmann said at the World Food Prize in Des Moines.

Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said he has helped in putting together a coalition of hunger advocacy groups to lobby against proposed cuts in food aid, which he described as “scary.”

The Nebraska native expressed concerns Wednesday about tensions that threaten food aid bills now stalled in Congress. He decried cuts to food assistance programs such as food stamps and assistance to food pantries and churches written into the yet-to-be-passed farm bill.

“The Senate version of the bill cuts $4.5 billion in food aid, and the House version cuts $16 billion. Since about $5 billion annually goes to food pantries and churches, that is the equivalent of eliminating from one to three years of hunger assistance,” Beckmann told a news conference at the World Food Prize in Des Moines.

The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned before the election without acting on the Senate-passed farm bill. The matter is expected to be brought up in a lame-duck session after the election.

Index: Food prices hit middle-income nations

DuPont used the World Food Prize to roll out an enhancement to its Global Food Security Index, which measures food security in 105 countries through an interactive map.

“The greatest impact from June to September this year in the rise in food prices was felt not in the poorest countries, but those in the economic middle like Hungary, Brazil, Argentina and Russia,” said Leo Abruzzese, global forecasting director of the Economist Intelligence Unit, a global economic forecasting firm affiliated with the Economist magazine, which put together the index and map.

“Domestic food inflation in Russia and Argentina, in particular, outpaced global food inflation,” Abruzzese said.

DuPont, which owns Pioneer in Johnston, developed the quarterly food price adjustment factor as an add-on to its security index.

The updated index shows that food security around the world declined slightly between June and September as the drought made its impact felt on the U.S. Midwest. The overall food affordability index dropped 1.8 points to 50.5, with 100 being the perfect level of food security.

To see the food index and its interactive components, go to foodsecurityindex.eiu.com.

Farmers: We need new technology to keep up

The good news about the world food picture is that production is up and more countries are enjoying their version of Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution.

The less-than-good news is that many countries struggle to keep up with new technologies, including the Internet and cellular telephones, that are necessities for staying abreast of a world agricultural economy that moves at an ever faster pace.

Even in countries considered more advanced, changes in communication make more complicated the task of relaying new information from science and technology sources to farmers and, in some cases, may hinder yield improvements.

“What is becoming clear is that the greatest need in developing countries is access to credit, technology and education,” said Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, economist at the University of Missouri, who moderated a panel of working farmers at the World Food Prize on Wednesday.

Even more advanced nations are learning they must work hard to keep up. Les Kletke, landowner and journalist in Manitoba, noted that Canadian agriculture is evolving into a American-style free market system that is dependent on mobile technology.

“An open market system works much faster,” Kletke said. “Many farmers and operators are having to learn how to operate in an American-style system. It is a major adjustment that requires advanced communications.”

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