Q1. What is the U. S. Department of Agriculture in charge of?
Economic Research Service (ERS) is the social science research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). ERS’s mission is to anticipate trends and emerging issues in agriculture, food, the environment, and rural America and to conduct high-quality, objective economic research to inform and enhance public and private decision making. ERS shapes its research program and products to serve those who routinely make or influence public policy and program decisions. Key clientele include the White House and USDA policy officials; the U.S. Congress; program administrators/managers; other U.S. Federal agencies; State and local government officials; and organizations, including farm and industry groups. ERS research provides context for and informs the decisions that affect the agricultural and food sector, which in turn benefits the society with efficient stewardship of our agricultural resources, the economic prosperity of the sector, and the health and well-being of consumers.
As one of the principal statistical agencies of the Federal Government, ERS is responsible for ensuring the quality, objectivity, and transparency of the statistical information it provides. ERS’s policies and procedures for publishing research and data are designed to ensure that we provide high quality and objective analysis. ERS research and analysis covers a broad range of economic and policy topics on food and agriculture, including US domestic food security, global food security, and sustainability, which are the focus of this conference.
Q2. What are the recent issues and challenges about the food crisis?
Across the globe, nations face three interrelated food policy challenges: Food insecurity, nutritionally poor diets, and sustainability of natural resources used in food production. Food security is defined as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Lack of such access, or food insecurity, is prevalent in all parts of the globe. ERS research using the Food and Agricultural Organization’s Food Insecurity Experience Scale shows 26% of the population are food insecure worldwide, with 11% classified as severely food insecure. ERS’s International Food Security Assessment model projects food demand and food gaps in 76 low- and middle-income countries through 2029. The model evaluates food insecurity for each country by estimating the share of the population unable to reach a caloric target of 2,100 calories per person per day. Per capita income is the primary diver of food insecurity and because of the expected gains in per capita income between 2019 and 2029, Asia’s share that is food insecure is projected to decrease from 13.9 percent to 3.5 percent. Per-capita income gains are also behind the agri-food value chain transformation happening worldwide, which has led to a rapid increase post-farmgate food marketing (processing, retailing, foodservices). These changes have implications for nutritional quality of diets and related problems like the increasing prevalence of obesity. In the United States, for example, it is well known that the average American diet is not in line with the recommendations for healthful diets found in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As polices are adopted to address these food and nutritional security challenges, some have questioned whether the transition to healthier diets is sustainable in terms of the use of natural resources such as energy, land, water, minerals, air, and forests. ERS addressed this issue through an integrated modeling project linking consumption, production, and resource use. Specifically, the project studied the resource requirements of transition toward recommended healthy diets and the major trade-offs. The findings showed that substantial resource requirements occur beyond the farmgate: Farm production accounts for less than half of total resource use among fossil fuels, GHG emissions, and forestry products; most of these resource requirements are in supply-chain stages further downstream. A shift to healthier US diets would decrease uses of some resources but increase others: Use of productive agricultural land, fossil fuels, and forest products would decrease, while freshwater withdrawals would increase, suggesting possible human nutrition-sustainability tradeoffs.
Q3. What should individuals, communities and international society do to cope with food security? In other words, what kind of efforts should we make?
Second, what do you feel participating in the forum?
The ADBI-KREI forum on food security and sustainable agriculture provided an opportunity to share some of ERS’s research on global food security and sustainability. The range of topics discussed at the forum affirmed the relevance of ERS’s work for addressing food and nutrition security challenges in Asia. The variety of talks at the forum that covered food availability, access, and utilization issues gave insight into some of the specific challenges and solutions to improve food security nutrition, and sustainability. Overall, the forum was a great learning and research sharing experience. The opportunity to meet, listen to, and interact with ADBI and KREI leadership were invaluable.