Agriculture Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh led the United States delegation to the United Nations Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome July 26-28. Leading up to the UN Food Systems Summit in New York in September, Bronaugh and U.S. officials worked with other countries and food systems stakeholders in Rome to build coalitions and consensus around shared objectives including food security and nutrition, climate change and equity and inclusion.
The summit will aim to establish commitments and measures to improve the world's food systems, but no standards are set as of now to mandate particular actions.
While speaking to media on Wednesday, Bronaugh shares that leading up to the summit in New York this fall, the United States has been working with other countries and delegates around the world to build coalitions and consensus around shared priorities for the United States.
“These priorities include hunger and nutrition, climate change and inclusion and equity. In addition, we are remaining focused on some fundamental principles that underpin these priorities and those include one that’s very important: leading with science and innovation and also enabling trade and rural infrastructure and investment,” Bronaugh says.
She says part of the beauty of the summit is the collaboration and understanding of different viewpoints. “I think everyone has a different approach, and I think that’s the power in the food systems summit. There are many different approaches to sustainable agricultural practices. And there’s no one way to do it. There’s no one way to solve some of the challenges that farmers face and some of those challenges in our food system.”
Bronaugh adds, “We’re really looking for everyone to use all of the tools that they have in terms of technologies and approaches to be able to reach our goals of affordable food, protecting the environment and a strong food system.”
Bronaugh says the pre-summit focused on work by specific coalitions to elevate discussion points on creating a strong and sustainable food system.
The United States, led by the USDA, is joining and promoting the global school meals coalition, which has laid out an ambitious goal of expanding school feeding programs to make nutritious meals available to all children by 2030.
Another priority for the United States and in many other countries includes those focused on the climate, including strategic investments and agriculture innovation research and development goals to accelerate progress on climate goals.
“While in Rome, we’ve been working hard to encourage other countries to join us in the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate,” says Bronaugh. AIM was announced during President Joe Biden’s Leader’s Summit on Climate earlier this year.
Food loss and waste is another focus coalition, Bronaugh says. “It’s difficult to see how we could achieve meaningful transformation and more sustainable food systems without reducing food loss and waste.” She says the United States strongly supports the creation of the Food is Never Wasted Coalition. “This coalition is in line with our commitment to not only reduce the loss and waste domestically, but to support capacity building efforts that will achieve this goal internationally as well.”
While in Rome, Bronaugh met with Italian government officials, including Minister of Agriculture Stefano Pautuanelli and Under Secretary of State for Ecological Transition Vannia Gava, and UN officials, including Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Qu Dongyu and World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley.
Worldwide ag minister cooperation
At a recent meeting of the executive committee of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the 31 participating countries endorsed a resolution stating that farmers must be duly represented at the summit and their central role in the provision of food must be recognized.
The unified position of the countries of the Americas is centered around 16 key messages and the focus of principles included in the document "On the road to the UN Food Systems Summit: key messages from the perspective of agriculture in the Americas", which the countries themselves contributed to, through coordinated work with IICA. The document contains 16 key messages about the critical role of agriculture, stressing that farmers and food systems' workers are an essential and central chain in food systems, and that without agricultural production there would be no raw material to transform into food.
Uruguay’s agricultural minister, Fernando Mattos, appealed for the prioritization of science and the rejection of “theories that seek to link the Hemisphere’s agricultural production to climate change. We are the solution and not the problem in food systems. We cannot propose to limit consumption of agricultural products while other sectors, such as the fossil fuel industry, are the primary culprits for greenhouse gas emissions.”
Jason Hafemeister, the United States’ deputy undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, felt that the priority is “to produce more food with fewer resources” and stressed that the group of ministers of agriculture and other officials participating in the region “embody the spirit of the Americas and will play a critical role with their contribution of new ideas.”
As the United Nations is holding its preliminary round of official meetings in a Food Systems Summit that’s examining the very nature of farming itself, the National Milk Producers Federation notes the actions considered could lead to policy changes around the world in the name of producing healthy food more sustainably and responsibly.
“Unsurprisingly, anti-animal-agriculture activists are out in full force, making claims about dairy and its environmental impact in an attempt to monopolize headlines and win hearts and minds, even though their claims don’t hold up to closer scrutiny,” NMPF says. “U.S. dairy, along with the nation’s entire agriculture sector and food supply chain, has significantly reduced its environmental impact in recent decades while reducing waste and increasing production.”
NMPF also notes there is no “one-size-fits-all” food system. “Historical, cultural and personal considerations; diverse production and manufacturing systems; differing levels of economic and industrial development. They all mean that there is no one diet, one approach to farming, or one set of public policies that universally apply to global food production or consumption,” NMPF adds.
“Food systems are too important to fall prey to misinformation, and a global discussion should be robust and sincere,” NMPF says.
The International Dairy Federation released its IDF Dairy Sustainability Outlook 4 - a special edition, dedicated to the United Nations Food Systems Summit. Guided by five Action Tracks of the Summit, case studies from the dairy community are presented, showcasing how the sector is committed to nourishing the global population with safe and nutritious foods through sustainable production systems.