While the success of U.S. farmers — increasing crop and livestock production five-fold in just under a century — represents an achievement unique in the world, it has, a new report contends, “bred complacency in America about the challenges of feeding the world.”

Further, it notes, federal spending on agricultural research “has been largely stagnant for three decades, and even slipped in recent years when adjusting for inflation.”

The report, “Advancing Global Food Security: The Power of Science, Trade, and Business,” developed for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, urges the U.S. government to focus its global food security strategy on prioritizing science, increasing trade flows for agriculture and food, and incentivizing greater business activity in low income countries.

“While we realize that the current debt and deficit challenge make this a difficult tie for Congress to increase spending, failing to address the problems that a dynamic agriculture is facing will place our economic and national security interests at great risk,” says Dan Glickman, former Secretary of Agriculture, and co-chair of the group that signed the report. “Making these investments now is the most prudent course of action for America and the world.”

The bipartisan panel included co-chair Catherine Bertini, former executive director of the World Food Program and 2003 World Food Prize laureate; Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum; Ann Veneman, former Secretary of Agriculture; Paul Schielder, president of DuPont Pioneer, and other national/international authorities in the agriculture, food, and foreign policy sectors.

Keenum, Under Secretary of Agriculture before assuming the MSU presidency in 2009, says research universities such as Mississippi State have a critical role in solving the challenge of food security. "This report reflects the scope of the problem, and the challenges that exist in addressing the issue of global food security," he says. "I believe this report provides a bright line example of why maintaining adequate competitive public and private research funding is imperative."

Global food security has been a research priority under Keenum's leadership at MSU. "If food production doesn't increase significantly, the number of people living in poverty will increase greatly," he says. "We should be compelled to help feed the world and allleviate suffering — first, because it's the right thing to do, but also because it is important to our national security."

Along with research, he says, the university has formed strategic partnerships, including a memorandum of understanding for research with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, a formal agreement with Nigeria to educate poultry science students, and other alliances. The United States and its land grant universities have the reseources to make feeding the world "an entirely achievable goal — although not an easy one."

The world is facing "perhaps the greatest challenge of a generation: how to feed two billion more people nutritiously in the decades ahead,” the report notes. “With global food demand expected to rise 60 percent by 2050, the world’s farmers will need to produce as much food over the next 40 years as they have in thousands of years to date.”

This need comes at a time when global agricultural production is not increasing at the same rate as in decades past, and water and untapped productive land are becoming harder to find.

The U.S. “has the capacity to rally the necessary resources and expertise at home and abroad toward equipping the global agriculture and food system to sustainable meet future demand,” the report says. “By leading this charge, the U.S. would also create more American jobs, expand trade and investment opportunities, grow markets, and increase U.S. influence globally.”

If future generations are to be fed, the study says, “innovation in the agriculture and food sectors must be dramatically ramped up … and this can best be achieved by focusing on three key areas: science, trade, and business, areas in which the U.S. has a comparative advantage and the capacity to lead.”

While science has made it possible to exponentially increase agricultural production over the past century, “the science of the past will not meet the demands of the future,” it says. “Food production will need to take into account environmental impact, producing more while using less land and water resources, adapting to climate change and greater weather variability, while balancing nutrition and energy needs.”