Farm Foundation, NFP has launched a new initiative to deliberate critical issues facing today's food and agricultural systems. This unique project, A Dialogue on Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century, will involve multiple activities designed to promote discussions across the food and agriculture value chain--from producers to consumers.

"The need to double the world's agricultural production by 2050 is a challenge that cannot be relegated to the back burner," said Neilson C. Conklin, President of Farm Foundation, NFP. "It is critical that attention be focused today on the complex issues of producing an adequate food supply while protecting natural resources. Rather than confrontation, we need civil, nonpartisan deliberations on the opportunities and challenges before us. And we need to begin now."

Diverse and dramatic changes are taking place across the food value chain today--from production systems and technology, to labor, nutrition, trade, domestic policies and consumer awareness. "All these factors make it imperative that we have constructive discussions of the specific issues involved in food and agriculture," said Mark Scholl, a senior partner with Entira, director of Farm Foundation, NFP, and chair of the Dialogue Project. "These discussions need to involve the full range of stakeholders--from farmers and ranchers to input suppliers, NGOs, the feeding community, community leaders and consumers. We all have a stake in how these critical issues evolve."

Using such tools as blogs, community meetings, issue papers and conferences, the Dialogue Project will engage stakeholders across a broad spectrum of perspectives. "The Dialogue Project is not a public relations campaign, nor will it try to drive specific policy agendas," Conklin stressed. "The intent is to reduce polarization by creating opportunities for participants to expand their understanding of and respect for differing approaches to and opinions on agricultural and food system issues. We want to encourage understanding of the multiple issues, as well as the options to address those issues and the potential consequences of those options."

Farm Foundation, NFP is uniquely positioned to lead this work. The Foundation does not lobby or advocate. "Our 78-year history of objectivity allows us to bring together the most comprehensive information to provide an objective, factual base on which public and private decision makers can evaluate issues," noted Conklin.

The Foundation has named a Project Steering Committee to ensure a diversity of ideas and approaches are incorporated in the initiative. "While it is not feasible for every sector or geographic region to be represented on the Steering Committee, a full range of stakeholders will be involved in specific activities," Conklin said. Members of the Steering Committee are:

  • Tim Amlaw, Sustainable Food Development, Ltd.
  • Bo Beaulieu, Southern Rural Development Center
  • James Borel, DuPont/Pioneer
  • Lynn Broaddus, Johnson Foundation at Wingspread
  • Bill Buckner, Bayer CropScience
  • Jim Christenson, University of Arizona
  • Jason Clay, World Wildlife Federation
  • Jeff Conrad, Hancock Agricultural Services
  • Billy Cordasco, Babbitt Ranches
  • Jack Fisher, Ohio Farm Bureau
  • Maurice Foxworth, Joyner-Kersee Foundation
  • Bob Frazee, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit System
  • Corny Gallagher, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
  • Ralph Grossi, California farmer
  • Michael Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Larry Kaagan, Kaagan Research Associates
  • A.G. Kawamura, Orange County Produce
  • Ejnar Knudsen, Passport Capital
  • Jeremy Kranowitz, Keystone Center
  • David Lee, Feeding America
  • Jo Luck, formerly of Heifer International
  • Gary MacDonald, MacDon Industries
  • Klaas and Mary Howell Martens, Martens Farm
  • Larkin Martin, Martin Farms and Lake View Organic Grain
  • West Mathison, Stemilt Growers
  • Ted McKinney, Elanco
  • Jimmy McWilliams, Texas State University
  • Paul Muller, Full Belly Farm, California
  • Rich Musselman, American Humane Association
  • Amy Mydral Miller, Culinary Institute of America
  • William Nelson, CHS Foundation
  • Jack Odle, Progressive Farmer
  • Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College
  • Jane Preyer, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Cheryl Queen, Compass Group North America
  • Beth Sauerhaft, Pepsico
  • Mark Scholl, Entira
  • Andrew Wainer, Bread for the World

The diversity of Dialogue Project participation will also be reflected in project funding, Scholl noted. "To maximize this project's impact, it is important that its financial support comes from all sectors of the food and agriculture value chain," he said. "It is also important to note that project activities are directed by the Foundation, not the project funders. Objectivity is always at the forefront of Farm Foundation work."

For Frequently Asked Questions about the Dialogue Project, click here.