Reflections on AGree’s Pivot to Action and the Value of Building Consensus among Diverse Food and Ag Interests

The views presented in these blogs are those of the authors.

Last week marked an important milestone for AGree. Building upon the recent release of consensus recommendations for four of our eight InitiativesWorking Landscapes, Food & Nutrition, International Development, and Immigration Reform, we convened A Better Path from Farm to Fork: Policy Solutions for the Future of Food. The November 18 Forum, hosted by National Geographic in Grosvenor Auditorium, brought together senior leaders from across government, food and agriculture, nutrition and health, education, and civil society. The video of the forum can be viewed here.

The forum began with a welcome from John Fahey, Chairman, National Geographic, and keynote remarks from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack provided welcoming remarks by video and AGree’s Co-Chairs presented on our work and shared their reflections. Dennis Dimick, Executive Environment Editor of National Geographic Magazine, moderated a panel discussion that included:

  • Pam Johnson, Past President, National Corn Growers Association, and Iowa corn and soybean farmer;
  • Greg Page, Executive Chairman of the Board, Cargill;
  • Anim Steel, AGree Advisor and Founder and Executive Director, Real Food Generation; and
  • Betti Wiggins, Executive Director, Office of School Nutrition, Detroit Public Schools.

These leaders, whose work truly spans “farm to fork” and the myriad of issues that lie in between, respectfully shared perspectives about the need for diverse and inclusive approaches that bridge large and small farming operations, address root causes such as poverty and property rights, foster research and best practices such as those that build soil health, and embrace the need for adaptation and creative problem solving in the face of change. These extraordinary leaders, in very plain language, underscored the need for pragmatic approaches and the tremendous opportunities we are afforded by working together. Alison Rice of AgWeb.com wrote a comprehensive article on the Forum that can be read here.

The next day, on Wednesday, November 19, AGree held its First Annual Partners Forum at Georgetown University. The purpose of the meeting was to sit down with partners and potential partners – people we know well and others who are new to AGree – to share our work and most importantly, discuss how together we can build upon and amplify our collective efforts to transform food and agriculture and make it a national priority.

I appreciated the rich discussions we had last week – questions about the nature of AGree’s work and suggestions for how we can move forward together to build trust, create broad coalitions for action, and ultimately effect change – both on the ground and in Washington D.C.

We are proud of what we have accomplished to date but recognize that our journey has really just begun. There are mountains yet to climb on crucial issues facing our food and agriculture system, and we look forward to building out a robust platform for change with all of you. We welcome your ideas, knowledge, networks, and passion for transforming the food and agriculture system. Together, we can go a long way.

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