President Barack Obama embarked on a historic trip to Latin America last week to strengthen U.S. ties to this vital region and commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress.” The United States and Brazil should seize this opportunity to forge a strategic partnership to confront global food insecurity.
Feeding the hungry throughout the Western Hemisphere was a key priority of the original Alliance for Progress. President Kennedy declared at the launch of the alliance in 1961:
For hungry men and women cannot wait for economic discussions or diplomatic meetings; their need is urgent, and their hunger rests heavily on the conscience of their fellow men.
This remains a pressing global need today. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, now estimates that more than 925 million people worldwide go to bed each night malnourished and hungry. Making matters worse, food prices have risen to record levels in the past eight months in a world agricultural system that is rapidly changing and under increased strain from a growing global population, changing diets, tight supplies, rising energy costs, and climate-change-induced extreme weather events affecting crop yields.
Rising food prices hit the world’s poor extremely hard. The World Bank estimates that the spike in food prices since June has placed 44 million people into extreme poverty.
The good news is the United States and Brazil are well-positioned to help reverse these trends. They are the largest economies in the Western Hemisphere and they are recognized global agricultural superpowers. The United States is the largest agricultural exporter in the world and Brazil is ranked third. The two nations are also ranked number one (United States) and two (Brazil) in the production and export of soybeans, beef, and poultry, and they are major producers of corn, cotton, and pork. They
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