Projects

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 population 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 environment.

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 project has four broad areas of work:

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.

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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