Helping Others Helps Us: Guest column by MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum

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Written by Dr. Mark E. Keenum

Working to find solutions to the many problems posed by hunger and poverty have defined much of my professional life. As a former USDA Under Secretary and now as president of one of our nation’s leading land-grant universities, I have seen first-hand the powerful difference American investment can make in addressing these significant global challenges.

In just a few days during World Food Prize Week in Des Moines, Iowa, the presidentially appointed advisory board to USAID – the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) – will release the results of a study that show the strong benefits to the United States of international aid investments.

The report, “How the United States Benefits from Agricultural and Food Security Investments in Developing Countries,” illustrates in great detail how American aid helps the people of the developing world, as well as American farmers, ranchers, consumers and taxpayers. This aid also plays a central role in enhancing both U.S. national security and global security and stability.

Given the projections of a world population of about 10 billion in 2050 and the impact of climate change on agriculture, investment in research through our U.S. universities is critical to meeting global food production demand. Conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, BIFAD’s report shows that such investment not only benefits the recipients but has a major impact on the U.S. economy and its global engagement. Key benefits of agricultural foreign assistance include:

  • Stronger U.S. research capacity that benefits our nation’s universities.
  • Increased U.S. agricultural productivity that benefits our farmers.
  • Increased agricultural trade and investments by U.S. firms that enhances economic growth and creates new opportunities.
  • More jobs and income in the U.S.
  • Greater availability of seasonal and tropical foods for U.S. consumers.
  • Greater global stability that directly benefits U.S. taxpayers.

By strengthening agricultural and food systems in developing countries, U.S. foreign agricultural assistance contributes to global and national security. The overall benefit to both developing countries and U.S. producers and consumers far exceeds the costs and helps secure a better and safer future for all at a time when our world and our nation face many challenges.

As BIFAD’s report makes clear, international development programs are raising living standards and improving quality of life – creating economic opportunity, new consumers, and opening markets to trade for American commodities – as a result of USAID and U.S. higher education collaboration and the investments of federal funding. Of course, as important as these economic and national security benefits are, I contend that international development that helps others is truly the right thing to do – and the American thing to do.

Dr. Mark E. Keenum is chairman of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development and President of Mississippi State University.

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