From Dirt to Dinner: The Far-Reaching Implications of Geopolitics on Food and Agriculture
The war in Ukraine sparked a rapid increase in food prices and food shortages around the world. The global community is still grappling with fallout, including a broader geopolitical realignment which is still ongoing. In this context, businesses are caught in geopolitical shifts, and the world’s most vulnerable find themselves increasingly subject to food insecurity with rising disruption to trade and supply chains.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman recently participated in an APCO Worldwide event covering the intersections between food security, geopolitics and business and the innovative solutions needed to combat food insecurity. Secretary Glickman explained, “the problems involved in global food security are easy to talk about. The solutions are much more difficult.”
Four takeaways from our conversation:
- Food security is a “100% issue.” The World Food Program projects that over 345 million people will be food insecure in 2023—double the number recorded in 2020. When people worry about feeding themselves and their families, it uses productive energy that could be put elsewhere. Conversely, when food security is not a concern, our economy becomes more productive as people can concentrate on other important activities that contribute to the growth and development of their communities such as education and jobs.
- What we grow and what we consume are two different conversations. In recent years, sustainability has become a growing concern for food-secure consumers, but policy conversations do not look at agricultural funding allocation with that lens. Farmers may not have access to the funding they need to adopt innovative practices. In response, government and private sector/business can partner with farmers to help fund regenerative agriculture practices.
- Climate change is changing nutrition values. Extreme weather events are contributing to a decline in the quality and quantity of food that we can grow. A study from The National Institutes of Health says that higher levels of carbon dioxide can reduce the protein content of crops such as rice, wheat and barley. Drought conditions can lead to a decrease in essential minerals in crops leading to serious health implications. As a result of the stress on the environment, there is an increase in diseases for both plants and livestock, impacting the developing world where there are fewer risk management tools available for smallholder farms. As climate change continues to impact agricultural productivity, it is becoming increasingly important to develop business strategies that can help ensure that everyone has access to nutritious, high-quality food.
- Businesses are leaning into regenerative agriculture. Localization can promote sustainable agriculture and food security, but the relationship between regenerative agriculture practices, sustainable consumer choices, and nutrition and health differ from market to market. Policymakers and businesses seeking to support sustainable farming practices must recognize these differences and work with local communities to develop policies and practices that work for everyone.
What Comes Next
In the United States, the Farm Bill is set to be reauthorized later this year. This serves as the largest financial commitment from the U.S. government to food and agriculture and includes federal nutrition assistance programs. While feeding programs make up the bulk of the funding, there is an increasing need for policy to focus on research and development and funding for farmers growing foods that align with health, nutritional and environmental needs. As Congress works to shape the updated Farm Bill, businesses should track the broader implications of funding decisions on food security, sustainable agriculture and the environment.
If you’re interested in continuing the conversation or learning more about the far-reaching implications of geopolitics on business decisions, sign up to receive the APCO Geopolitical Risk Radar. This resource offers a timely snapshot of the global operating environment for businesses. It predicts how regional risks come together at a global level and offers a baseline from which to develop strategies to navigate, mitigate and grow through these risks. Learn more here: https://apcoworldwide.com/work/proprietary-tools/geopolitical-risk-radar/
From the event: