The director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization paid a visit to the University on Friday and met with Minnesota agricultural leaders to discuss the state of world agriculture.
During Jacques Diouf’s lecture, he praised the University’s agricultural advancements and explained the role the U.N. organization is playing in current agricultural and world-hunger crises. Diouf is originally from Senegal.
“I have seen what you have done — increasing food production, reducing hunger and protecting the environment,” Diouf said. “This country and this state have so much to offer to the world of agriculture.”
While speaking about agricultural globalization, Diouf stressed the effect it has had on the U.S. economy. On Saturday, he planned to visit farms in the area.
“The reliance of U.S. producers on world markets has exposed farmers here to new risks from a volatile international economy,” Diouf said.
Gary DeCramer, who works for the Department of Agriculture and attended the lecture, offered accolades for Diouf but issued a quiet admonishment to the United States.
“Despite the efforts of the U.S. to not pay its U.N. dues, it has not stopped well-intentioned people like (Diouf) to find ways of dealing with food hunger,” DeCramer said.
More than 100 students, faculty and agricultural officials attended the lecture held in the 3M Auditorium in the Carlson School of Management building Friday.
“I was very impressed by the panel … it is pretty amazing for Minneapolis to have the director-general of FAO from the United Nations,” said Melissa Smith, a second-year law student.
August Schumacher Jr., the U.S. undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services, and former Sen. George McGovern, ambassador to the U.N. agencies for food and agriculture, were also on the panel.
Although Diouf concentrated his speech on the achievements and future ambitions of the agriculture organization, Charity Tatah Mentan, a legal assistant for Cameroon’s agriculture department, said she sees some room for improvement in the U.N.’s efforts.
“The globalization of agriculture will not be complete if the woman is left out,” Mentan said. “We will talk at the top of our voices and let the world know that the rural woman has rights that are not being protected.”
Smith also issued a criticism of the U.N. agriculture organization.
“I think the U.N. is very well-intended, they just seem to miss the mark on a lot of their programs,” Smith said.
“We have enough food on this planet to feed everybody. What we need to do is set up farming in Third World countries where they can grow their own food and not be reliant on these larger corporate machines,” she explained.
G. Edward Schuh, a Regents’ professor of economic policy, and Gene Hugoson, the state commissioner of agriculture, represented the University on the panel.
Brian Keogh welcomes comments at [email protected]