Monday, March 19, 2007

Walberg on Agriculture

When Nikita Khrushchev came to America in the 1959, President Eisenhower wanted to greet him with a spirit of openness and friendship, with the hope of perhaps ending the young Cold War. He offered to show Krushchev all the things Ike was proud of-- mainly, military bases and factories. But Khrushchev didn't want to see those, he wanted to see the two things that America had and the Soviet Union did not have.

One of them was an American family farm. It was (and still is) incredible that a tiny fraction of our population can both feed the entire country and export its surplus around the world.

The other, of course, was Disneyland.

I've always thought that was a fun story, and it's a great way to introduce any agricultural subjects. Michigan's 7th District is a rural district, and to say that agriculture is important to the district and to the country would be an incredible understatement. And while only 1.5 percent of the 7th District workforce is employed in agriculture (compared to 24.6 percent in manufacturing, according to 2000 census data), it serves a vital role in the district.

For years, former Congressman Nick Smith was a reliable voice for the 7th District's agricultural interests, despite his conservative politics. A former Department of Agriculture bureaucrat prior to holding elective office, Smith served on the House Committee on Agriculture during his terms in office.

When Smith left office, former Congressman Joe Schwarz also served on the Agriculture Committee, and, upon taking office, Congressman Tim Walberg was given a seat on the same committee.

What are Tim Walberg's thoughts on agriculture? Well, this is all he writes on the Agriculture page of his House web site:

As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I look forward to meeting with and addressing the needs of south-central Michigan farmers.
... And that's it. He looks forward to meeting farmers. Hm.

If there are any farmers out there, what has Tim Walberg done for you so far? And what do you expect him to do?

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There is an article in the Lansing State Journal today about ag issues.

The article talks about a shortage of ag workers and farmers needs for migrant workers to keep their farms running. Walberg takes the position that we need to lock down the borders before we address ag concerns. Basically, ag is taking a backseat to the immigration debate. Remeber, the Minuteman PAC was a huge supporter of him against Schwarz and if he backed off his hard-line border security stance, he'd have hell to pay with his money sources. I guess our farmers will just have to suffer a while longer.

Enables WAF to Gather Private, Public Sector Experts from Around the Globe to
Meet and Focus on Ways to Improve Food Production in Poorest Countries

SEATTLE (March 2007) — Under its new agricultural development initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today awarded a $250,000 grant to the World Agricultural Forum (WAF). The grant will help expand the reach of the forum by allowing the WAF to gather both public and private sector agricultural experts from around the globe to focus on developing countries and present solutions that meet the growing needs for food, fuel and fiber. This expansion will include a series of meetings in 2008, some held in Africa, that will continue the WAF’s effort to bring together leaders in global agriculture who can work together to develop solutions to alleviate hunger and poverty experienced by citizens in nearly 50 countries.

“Most of the world’s poorest people are dependent on agriculture for survival,” said Dr. Rajiv Shah, director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Agricultural Development program. “Since most major countries have leveraged improvements in agricultural productivity to move people out of poverty and hunger, it’s clear that improving agricultural methods in the developing world will play a critical role in expanding opportunity. By partnering with the World Agricultural Forum, we can help bring together the brightest public and private sector minds to focus on this challenge and find the necessary solutions.”

With the Gates Foundation grant, the WAF brings together global leaders in rural development, technology transfer, agricultural production and food transportation for a series of panel discussions at the WAF 2007 World Congress, scheduled for May 8-10, 2007 in St. Louis. In addition, the WAF also plans to host a 2008 regional agricultural leaders meeting in Africa to follow-up and expand on the solutions discussed at the 2007 World Congress.

“This generous grant represents a unique opportunity in the history of philanthropy by allowing on-the-ground action to take place that is coordinated among every major group, including governments, academia and non-governmental organizations, dedicated to successfully addressing the intertwined issues of hunger and poverty,” said the Right Honorable James Bolger, ONZ, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Ambassador to the United States, and current chairman of the World Agricultural Forum advisory board. “This is a tremendous award from the Gates Foundation, and we look forward to this grant serving as the first step in a long-term collaboration.”

“The Gates Foundation Grant is recognition of the WAF’s success throughout the past ten years,” said WAF Founder and CEO Dr. Leonard Guarraia. “Our organization brings together agricultural leaders from across the world in a neutral and inclusive environment. Together, these leaders identify unique alternatives to help solve the problems of hunger, poverty and malnutrition.”

The Gates Foundation’s agricultural development initiative aims to help smallholder farmers in developing countries improve their productivity and gain access to markets to sell their products. This will yield the potential to bring about a lasting reduction in hunger and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The Gates Foundation primarily supports development and application of new technologies, increased availability and adoption of inputs suited to local conditions, connection of small farmers to markets, and advocacy for improved resources and policies for agriculture.

World Agricultural Forum President Ray Cesca said, “This collaboration between the Gates Foundation and the WAF will focus attention on desperate areas of the world where change is possible and where people can be helped. This grant will have a positive impact on the people who most need our help, and we thank the Gates Foundation for their support and attention.”

Founded in 1997, the WAF provides the world’s only neutral, inclusive Forum for global leaders to discuss and find solutions to critical agricultural issues through its biennial World Congress, scheduled to convene for the fifth time in May 2007, as well as ongoing education and communications efforts.

About the Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates. For more information about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and their agricultural development initiative, please visit

About the World Agricultural Forum (WAF)

The World Agricultural Forum (WAF) is at the forefront of the evolving agricultural industry and it serves as a catalyst for innovation and positive changes in agribusiness. On a global stage, the WAF produces one of the largest biennial gatherings of leaders concerned about the world’s growing population and the respective shortages of food, fuel and fiber in both developed and developing nations.

The WAF also conducts regional Congresses that, through the use of reliable and timely information, address emerging trends and key industry issues such as sustainable agriculture, fair trade policies and biotechnology. Its focus is to identify solutions to current problems facing poorer nations, particularly in overcoming hunger and poverty.

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