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An Interview with Ben Pratt of The Mosaic Company, GHI’s Board Chair for 2016
Ben, tell us a bit about yourself and your role at The Mosaic Company.
I am Vice President, Corporate Public Affairs, at The Mosaic Company. I lead communications with all our corporate stakeholders as well as our corporate social responsibility work, which includes community investments and sustainability reporting. I also oversee our U.S. Federal Government relations work and our public affairs activities in Brazil.
I have been at Mosaic since early 2012. Before that, I spent many years in similar communications and public affairs functions in the financial services industry. Moving to agriculture was a big change, and I quickly realized that the global business of feeding the world is fascinating and endlessly complex—and I am proud to be part of it.
What do people need to know about crop nutrition and fertilizer that you think we often do not consider within our understanding of food production?
When it comes to producing enough food for a growing population, healthy soils are paramount—and sometimes overlooked. Many people are surprised by the fact that half of all crop yields are attributed to fertilizer. We simply would not be able feed the world without it.
Mosaic plays an essential role in the agricultural value chain by producing about 20 million tons of phosphate and potash fertilizers every year. Fertilizer is a vital agricultural input and investment—one that replenishes soils with nutrients that are removed with each harvest.
Global Harvest Initiative was founded during the food price crisis of 2008-2009 which created an urgent need to invest in agricultural productivity. Today, food prices are at historic lows and grain stocks are high. Why is increasing agricultural productivity still critical during this agricultural business cycle?
Ensuring the long-term agricultural productivity the world needs is about making sure the whole value chain is competitive in every phase of the business cycle. The food price crisis was just six years ago; to think that in half a decade we have created systems that will always produce an abundance of food would be to disregard recent history.
The business of agriculture is cyclical—that is not going to change. So it is critical that participants in every part of the value chain manage their costs, invest for innovation and growth and continue to collaborate to produce the food our growing population needs.
You recently spent time in India with the Mosaic Company. Tell us what you saw there and how you think it relates to GHI’s work.
In India, I saw a strong and direct relationship between agricultural productivity, hunger and poverty. Most Indian farmers are smallholders, often farming well less than one hectare and many farmers struggle to produce enough food on these small parcels of land.
Mosaic values our long-term partnership with the Sehgal Foundation, in which Mosaic’s products, agronomic expertise and financial support help participating farmers increase their crop yields by up to 35 percent over traditional practices. The program allows farmers to move from bare subsistence to selling surplus crops at market.
India exemplifies the many complex factors that go into the global food security equation. Global Harvest Initiative brings together the leaders from private industry on five key recommendations: Invest in research and development in food and agriculture technology; get science-based products and technology into the hands of farmers; enhance private and public investments in ag-related infrastructure; reduce international barriers to agricultural trade; and strengthen international assistance to agricultural development. It is critical for the Indian government, private industry and farmers to embrace these goals in order to meet the nutritional demands of its 1.3 billion people.
Finally, please share with us a strategic focus you have as GHI Board Chair this year—what would you like to accomplish?
In addition to helping the staff execute and promote another valuable Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®), I want to help strengthen the organization for its long-term future. GHI has earned a reputation for thoughtful, data-driven analysis of global production agriculture and occupies a critical space in the increasingly cacophonous public conversation about how we produce food, feed, fiber and fuel. To ensure GHI’s influence continues its remarkable growth, I want to grow GHI membership and deepen the engagement of the organization’s members.