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Food Security and National Security—Two Side of the Same Coin
Margaret Zeigler served as a commentator and distinguished visitor at this week’s presentation on National Security and the Agribusiness Industry at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy. The Eisenhower School Master’s students of The National Defense University presented a policy paper identifying the future challenges to U.S. national security rising from threats to global and national food security. It was an immensely interesting and engaging morning, in which 25 leaders from the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and State Department, along with several international military participants, shared and received feedback on the findings of their research paper on the Agribusiness Industry.
Between 2007 and 2012, a number of countries experienced political instability around the world due to highly volatile and increasing food prices. These political events posed threats to regional and global security and often require the involvement of the U.S. military and allied militaries. Providing support through diplomacy, development investments, and science and trade can help prevent some of these situations from spiraling into security threats that can eventually impact the U.S., our allies, and global stability.
The Agribusiness Industry was defined by the students as the businesses that directly engage in or directly benefit from agricultural activities along the entire agriculture and food value chain (from production and inputs to processing and to retail). Food security includes components such as social stability, access to affordable and nutritious food, and the link to health and well-being. The analysis was conducted through the lens of national security and focused on several specific cases: Brazil, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, China and India, including two field studies in India and China.
The presentations identified the factors and trends impacting global food supply and demand. The epicenter of this study was the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis, which portrayed the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. food and agriculture systems, as well as global opportunities and threats. Some of the strengths included geography, governance, markets, infrastructure, distribution and logistics capacities, and a science and technology framework. The U.S. also has good access to food, fairly affordable supply, a stable population growth rate, and an educated population. The report identified weaknesses such as a fragmented and confusing regulatory system, lack of consistent and reliable labor for food harvesting and production, and skepticism on the part of many consumers about the nature of biotechnology. Several of these weaknesses need to be addressed by Congress in legislation, and the lack of progress is a challenge to improve food and agriculture production.
The paper also detailed global opportunities such as affordable, abundant labor, yield potential, climate change, trade and logistics, and the future growing middle class, particularly those in India and China. These global opportunities and threats highlight the need to take action.
Margaret and Richard Greene of USAID provided feedback to the students. Margaret highlighted the role of Latin America as an important source of agriculture and food for global demand. She shared the recommendations from GHI’s report, The Next Global Breadbasket: How Latin America Can Feed the World; a number of the students remarked on the importance of ensuring that the Western Hemisphere continues to be a stable source of economic and political development in coming decades.