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Collaboration needed to solve global food, environmental challenges

Food and ag leaders look to outline path to more sustainable food system.

In early June, nearly 100 leaders across agriculture, technology, non-government organizations, finance and investment and food companies gathered at a 1,400-acre farm an hour outside Washington, D.C., to discuss the urgency of the issues of how to nourish an unprecedented population while protecting and enhancing the world and to collaborate on a vision. The Honor the Harvest Forum, created by the US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) and The Aspen Institute, featured working sessions among stakeholders that centered on the ability of agriculture to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to a changing climate while growing shared value across the food chain.

"There is no 'or' in this equation. We must grow and raise healthy foods to feed billions of people, and we must do so in a way that positively contributes to the environment," USFRA chief executive officer Erin Fitzgerald said. "There is no other sector that can provide nourishment for our communities while drawing down carbon into our soils and enhancing ecosystem services like the food and agriculture sector."

"Our future is dependent upon contagious collaboration between the food and agriculture value chain," Fitzgerald added. "I'm urgently asking all innovators, food makers, nonprofit groups and financial institutions to join us as we create a strategic roadmap to meet these challenges of the next decade."

Studies have found that farming and ranching will play a critical role in solving climate change issues. Agricultural soils have the capacity to capture and store carbon through the photosynthesis process. Through climate-smart agricultural practices, farmers and ranchers can optimize production, improve resiliency, minimize use of fertilizers and other inputs and improve water use and quality, all while storing carbon for future generations.

“We're talking about doing new things that haven't been done before," said Chris Adamo, vice president of federal and industry affairs at Danone North America. "So, we're going to need different people coming up with ideas that, frankly, I haven't heard of, probably farmers haven't heard of and, sometimes, consumers haven't heard of. We've all got to be sitting down and really working on this together."

In the coming months, the leaders who attended Honor the Harvest will be outlining a path forward to a more sustainable food system and defining how food systems could look in 2030.

"We can have a lot of strategies," said Christine Daugherty, vice president of sustainable agriculture and responsible sourcing for PepsiCo. "We clearly need vision, but at the end of the day, we need to roll up our sleeves, and we need to get the work done."

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