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Dialogue on Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century

A Dialogue on Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century is a Farm Foundation, NFP initiative to promote discussions across the food and agriculture value chain—from producers to consumers--of critical issues in agriculture and food systems. 

By 2050, the world's popualtion is forecast to increase 50%, with demand for agricultural production expected to double. It is critical that attention be focused today on the complex issues of producing an adequate, nutritious, affordable food supply while maintaining and protecting natural resources. The solutions are not singular or simple. The question is how society understands and balances the competing risks, tradeoffs and desires for affordable food, a healthy diet and a sustainable environmnet.

The Dialogue Project offers an agenda-free space where a full range of stakeholders can engage in civil conversations about the food and agricultural system. 

The  Dialogue Project’s Steering Committee has identified four broad areas of work:

  • Goals and priorities for North American food and agriculture
  • Adaptability and resilience in food and agriculture
  • Role of science and technology in agriculture
  • Human capital needs in food and agriculture

The Soil Health Initiative designed to bring attention to the critical role of soil health in the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. A collaboration of Farm Foundation, NFP and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, the Soil Health Initiative will bring recognition to the central role of soil in productive agricultural systems, and establish a strategic plan to address soil health issues.

Solutions From the Land (SFL) focuses on the sustainable policies and practices needed to meet food, feed, fiber and energy production needs while protecting natural resources and ecosystems. The SFL report, A New Vision for United States Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation, identifies challenges facing land sustainability, and proposes pathways to address those challenges. The pathways proposed are not intended to be prescriptive, but rather to serve as the basis for robust, solutions-oriented conversations among the diverse range of stakeholders with interests in land use issues. This includes foresters, farmers, ranchers, conservationists, community leaders, recreation enthusiasts, the wildlife community, policy makers and agribusiness leaders.

The Foundation's Dialogue Project is hosting a series of regional influencer conversation inviting representatives from across the food/agriculture businesses and interest groups--from producers to growers and all the related sectors in between--to provide insights on concerns and priorities. The first regional meeting in Vermont brought together producers, culinary experts, environmentalists, educators, media and food interest groups. Additional Influencer Conversations are planned across the nation.  Watch this site for more details.  

The future of foreign-born labor in the United States was the topic of a July 2012 sympoisum organized as part of the Dialogue Project. About 50 agricultural producers, leaders of farm workers organizations and representatives of other organizations working on agricultural labor issues participated in this symposium. Click here for more details. A  summary of the symposium is also available.

Join the dialogue
As part of the Dialogue Project, Farm Foundation, NFP has launched a new blog, AgChallenge2050, for agriculture and food system stakeholders to share their perspectives on food and agriculture issues.

Why the Dialogue Project?
“The need to double the world’s agricultural production by 2050 is a challenge that cannot be relegated to the back burner,” said Neilson C. Conklin, President of Farm Foundation, NFP. “It is critical that attention be focused today on the complex issues of producing an adequate food supply while protecting natural resources. Rather than confrontation, we need civil, nonpartisan deliberations on the opportunities and challenges before us. And we need to begin now.”

Diverse and dramatic changes are taking place across the food value chain today—from production systems and technology, to labor, nutrition, trade, domestic policies and consumer awareness. “All these factors make it imperative that we have constructive discussions of the specific issues involved in food and agriculture,” said Mark Scholl of J&M Scholl Enterprises, a director of Farm Foundation, NFP, and a member of the Dialogue Project Steering Committee.  “These discussions need to involve the full range of stakeholders—from farmers and ranchers to input suppliers, NGOs, the feeding community, community leaders and consumers. We all have a stake in how these critical issues evolve.”

Using such tools as blogs, community meetings, issue papers and conferences, the Dialogue Project will engage stakeholders across a broad spectrum of perspectives. “The Dialogue Project is not a public relations campaign, nor will it try to drive specific policy agendas,” Conklin stressed. “The intent is to reduce polarization by creating opportunities for participants to expand their understanding of and respect for differing approaches to and opinions on agricultural and food system issues. We want to encourage understanding of the multiple issues, alternatives to address those issues and the potential consequences of those options.”

Why Farm Foundation’s leadership?
Farm Foundation, NFP is uniquely positioned to lead this work. The Foundation does not lobby or advocate. “Our 80-year history of objectivity allows us to bring together the most comprehensive information to provide an objective, factual base on which public and private decision makers can evaluate issues,” noted Conklin.

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