Alliance Panel Explores Common Challenges of Farmers Across the World

October 26, 2016

On October 13, the Alliance to End Hunger, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), hosted a panel discussion in Des Moines, IA during the World Food Prize. The side event, held at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, highlighted many of the common challenges faced by farmers and other agricultural producers in the United States and in the developing world. This was the Alliance to End Hunger’s fifth year of hosting a side event, and second year of collaboration with the FAO.

From Left: Marv Baldwin, FRB; Ellie Grossnickle, Dairy farmer and Maryland FFA; Martha Hirpa, Heifer International; Jon Halverson, Land O'Lakes; Donna Vincent Roa, USAID. (Photo: Nathan Magrath/Alliance to End Hunger)

From Left: Marv Baldwin, FRB; Ellie Grossnickle, Dairy farmer and Maryland FFA; Martha Hirpa, Heifer International; Jon Halverson, Land O’Lakes; Donna Vincent Roa, USAID. (Photo: Nathan Magrath/Alliance to End Hunger)

The panel discussion was moderated by Marv Baldwin, President and CEO of Foods Resource Bank, and chair of the board of the Alliance to End Hunger. Panelists included Ellie Grossnickle, a young dairy farmer and Maryland FFA State President; Jon Halverson, VP of international Development at Land O’Lakes; Martha Hirpa, Managing Senior Director of Institutional Business Development at Heifer International; and Dr. Donna Vincent Roa, Chief of Party of USAID’s Securing Water for Food Technical Assistance Facility.

Ambassador Tony Hall, Executive Director Emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger and Barbara Ekwall, Senior Liaison Officer at the FAO in Washington, DC, both provided opening remarks urging the food security community to highlight the complicated yet critical challenges faced by farmers around the world.

A number of themes emerged from the panel discussion. Ellie Grossnickle and Martha Hirpa addressed issues of youth and gender in agriculture. Across the world, the average age of farmers is rising as the prospect of farming is seen as undesirable for many youth. Grossnickle spoke of a few persistent issues, but also a hopeful outlook for both women and youth in farming in the United States, while Hirpa stated that in the developing world patriarchy continues to be an issue for many smallholder women farmers. “You cannot develop international programs without an analysis of gender dynamics, Hirpa stated.

A participant addresses the panel at the 2016 World Food Prize side event. (Photo: Nathan Magrath/Alliance to End Hunger)

A participant addresses the panel at the 2016 World Food Prize side event. (Photo: Nathan Magrath/Alliance to End Hunger)

Environmental issues were also at the forefront, including climate and weather volatility and water availability. Dr. Donna Vincent Roa presented her expertise in water issues, stating that in our changing climate, and with the stress we are seeing globally on water systems, there will continue to be an increase in need for climate smart agriculture.

Finally, Jon Halverson of Land O’Lakes brought his years of experience to the table to speak on issues related to market access, as well as his own thoughts about legacy issues, including the impact technology is making in farming. These technological advancements in agriculture, he stated, can and should also be used to help drive youth toward the industry.

In concluding, a key theme was summed up by a statement by Halverson: “Common challenges experienced by farmers here in the US and in the developing world are increasing and will continue to increase.”