Having spent most of my professional life in international development in countries across the globe, I’m frequently asked - why should the United States invest in supporting global development while we are facing many urgent needs domestically? How do we justify spending money abroad to address the world’s food security needs when so many pressing issues need to be addressed within our own country?

The answer is simple.

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Let me explain.

First, in the most pragmatic sense, helping others in the world to produce a dependable supply of food enhances America’s national security. That’s because people who are hungry and economically disadvantaged are vulnerable people. When people are hungry and poor, they are easier to influence. And as we have seen over and over, those people can become candidates for radicalization that threatens not only their nations, but ours as well.

Second—and equally pragmatic—improving the ability of smallholder farmers to move beyond subsistence farming helps elevate whole communities. Consequently, developing programs to shift people out of extreme poverty toward economic security contributes to the development of a “middle class” of consumers with the financial capacity not only to thrive locally, but also to purchase products and services that the United States can supply.

Third, helping to fund the training of farmers to adopt better agricultural practices—by reducing the use of obsolete pesticides, for instance—helps improve quality along the food value chain, including the quality of many of the imported fruits and vegetables that Americans eat every day.

Fourth, providing agricultural technical assistance, through development programs and local partnerships, creates a two-way exchange.  This is an important element of citizen diplomacy and opens our minds to other cultures, religions, races and traditions.  

Finally, there is the matter of our moral responsibility. Supporting people around the world—improving their food security and living conditions, and lifting them out of extreme poverty—is part of America’s heritage, and a part of our obligation as an advanced economic society.

Those are only five reasons. But there are many more. That is why it is imperative to continue to include international development efforts—like those the Global Food Security Act will fund—as a “key pillar of American foreign policy.”

Moreover, the Global Food Security Act is an important part of our nation’s comprehensive effort to drive global development and represents a dramatic case of Congress and the President working together. That effort includes initiatives—both public  and in partnership with private organizations—not only to improve food security, but to bolster world health through the elimination of tropical diseases that increasingly find their way into our country; to encourage innovations that can be implemented around the world to support sustainable development; to increase access to electricity in underdeveloped parts of the world; and to encourage entrepreneurship and leadership development, to name a few.

But there will be more than 9 billion mouths to feed by 2050. So, helping to feed those mouths is a good place to start.

Roy is the President and CEO of CNFA: Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.