By: Jesse Larios
On July 6th, the U.S. House passed the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) after a nearly two-year odyssey, and it will soon go to President Obama soon for his signature. What is the GFSA, and why does it matter? This is an important step, because the bill affirms the U.S. commitment to taking concrete steps to reduce global food insecurity, primarily by helping farmers in developing countries produce more of their own food. As the lead farmer from California in the Farm Journal Foundation’s Farm Team, I have worked with our state’s Congressional delegation to help get this legislation across the finish line, and I am proud to have played even a small a role in its passage.
Raising cattle in Brawley, I know how important it is that the United States continue its leadership role in promoting agricultural research and development around the world. Today, there are an estimated 795 million food insecure people on this planet, and we know that at least half of those people are actually smallholder farmers and their family members. Sadly, even though their main occupation is farming, these men and women lack sufficient resources and/or knowledge to produce enough food to feed their family on a year-round basis.
The U.S. Feed the Future initiative, made permanent by this legislation, is focused on making sure these farmers get the inputs and know-how they need to prosper. GFSA will provide explicit authority for the U.S. Agency for International Development and other U.S. agencies to maintain their focus on these issues, and also establishes some reporting guidelines to help Congress better oversee these activities.
What happens when people in developing countries, especially children, cannot consistently get enough food to eat? They cannot develop properly and live to their full potential. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines stunting as having a height-for-age more than two standard deviations below the median for children aged 0-4 years due primarily to chronic malnutrition and poor sanitation. Globally, 161 million under-five year olds were estimated to be stunted in 2013. This figure represents one out of every four children in this age category around the world, and an even higher share, about one out of three children, in developing countries. If these children survive into adulthood—and 3.1 million a year don’t– they are usually physically and cognitively impaired. In a study conducted in Guatemala, men in a specific village who enjoyed proper nutrition at an early age generated on average 46 percent higher earnings than their contemporaries who did not.
As a farmer, my passion in life is to feed hungry people. Whether that requires me to steer a combine over dusty fields, care for my livestock, or wear out my shoe leather walking the halls of Congress to talk to my elected representatives about these issues, I want to make sure that the job is done.