Board of agriculture experts to meet at MU on Friday

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | 9:20 p.m. CDT; updated 10:52 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 13, 2013

COLUMBIA — It’s a precarious time for the world food supply.

More than 170 million people wake up hungry every day. Last summer brought the worst drought the Midwest had seen in more than 50 years, and another dry summer is expected this year. And on top of those challenges, the global population is projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050.

If You Go

All of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development's meetings on Friday will be open to the public.

The board will meet in the Fred W. Smith Forum in the Reynolds Journalism Institute starting at 8 a.m. Friday. Here's the initial presentation schedule, though it is subject to change:

  • 8 a.m.: The meeting will open with MU Chancellor and board chairman Brady Deaton, a recognition of new board members and a discussion of old and new business.
  • 8:40 a.m.: Board members will hear member outreach reports from Catherine Bertini, Marty McVey and Bill DeLauder.
  • 9:15 a.m.: Globalization of University-USAID Partnerships: Panel Discussion on Development of New USAID Innovation Labs and Establishment of Research Priorities in Integrated Pest Management and Sustainable Intensification. Panelists include moderator Brady Deaton; Julie Howard, USAID; Dale Bottrell, retired professor, University of Maryland; Sylvie Brouder, professor of agronomy, Purdue; and Saharah Moon Chapotin, USAID.
  • 10:30 a.m.: Break and poster demonstration in the atrium of the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
  • 10:45 a.m.Panel on university domestic foundation for international research priorities, called "Agriculture Research at U.S. universities: the Global Challenge." Panelists include moderator Brady Deaton; Jill Findeis, chair of the MU Division of Applied Social Sciences; Marc Linit, associate dean for research in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Willi Meyers, MU director of International Agriculture Programs; Bob Sharp, director of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group at MU; and Handy Williamson, vice provost for International Programs.
  • Noon: A question, answer and comment period will be held by board members.
  • 12:15 p.m.: The board will have a public comment period.
  • 12:30 p.m.: Meeting will adjourn.



“We can’t afford not to be well prepared,” MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said.

In order to address these issues and others, agriculture researchers and specialists will gather at MU on Friday for a meeting of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development. 

The meeting will be held at 8 a.m. at the Fred W. Smith Forum in the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The board’s primary purpose is to advise the U.S. Agency for International Development on how to best use its resources to fund agricultural development and research in the hopes of ensuring a stable food supply and ending hunger around the world.

“I’d like to address the needs of hungry people, for children to be more well-fed, for people to have more stable incomes and for communities to have a great sense of food security,” Deaton said. “They should be able to know that they can get up in the morning and eat.”

Deeaton offered to host this board meeting at MU because of the university's strong agriculture programs and the board's mission to engage with land-grant universities. Past board meetings have taken place in Washington D.C. or Des Moines, Iowa.

The agency has more than $100 million in research funding to support its mission, Deaton said.

Addressing the problems of international hunger and food insecurity is important because it is the one of the most basic human needs, said Carol Oliver, a member of the local chapter of Heifer International.

"There are so many problems in the world and hunger is at the root of so many of them," Oliver said. "Without sustenance people are not able to fix their other problems."

The board includes three past winners of the World Food Prize, considered the “Nobel Prize of agriculture," and three heads of public, land-grant universities, along with representatives from private volunteer organizations and the private sector.

The agricultural development board's purview is not limited to just the farm. The U.S. development agency and the board take into account the entire food chain, from farm to table, and also is involved with research that can improve food security in developing countries, the board's executive director Susan Owens said.

“The food isn’t just sitting out there,” Deaton said “We recognize the interdependence of these areas, much like interdisciplinary research at a university.”

In addition to attending the meeting Friday, members of the board will be speaking with groups around campus to talk about international engagement. For example, Gebisa Ejeta, the winner of the 2009 World Food Prize for his research into drought-resistant sorghum, will speak with graduate and postdoctoral students in MU’s Interdisciplinary Plant Group.

Former Heifer International president and current board member Jo Luck was also scheduled to give a public talk Thursday, but had to cancel due to family health issues. Two representatives from Heifer, Cleo Kottwitz and Mel West, will speak in her place at 4 p.m. in the Adams Conference Room in the Veterinary Medicine Building.

Deaton, who was appointed chair of the board by President Barack Obama in April 2011, has had a lifelong interest in agricultural economics and food production issues. He taught vocational agriculture in Thailand during a stint in Peace Corps and has multiple degrees in the field.

“Growing up on a small farm in eastern Kentucky, I saw people there who didn’t do it right and they had problems with health, nutrition and income instability,” Deaton said. “I also had an early experience in the Peace Corp that gave me a first-hand view of how that can be applied at the village level.”

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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