The North Bend Eagle


How to save a billion lives

Senator Mike Johanns
Released 4/7/14

Norman Borlaug might not be a name many would put on a list of American icons, but a statue of this Iowa farmer now stands with sculptures of former presidents and other great American figures in the U.S. Capitol. Inscribed on it is the phrase, “The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives.”

To put this in perspective, the world’s population is 7 billion.

Borlaug earned this title for his lifetime achievements in improving ag efficiency in developing nations struggling to feed their people. He used science and technology to develop plant genetics that would thrive in local conditions and could be used by local farmers. As a result hungry nations began outpacing the starvation that was too often at their door.

Crops grown in Nebraska soil are used to keep people alove on the other side of the globe.

The significance of his discoveries is only going to become more important as the global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. That means limited resources must be stretched further to feed more people. The stakes are high and the implications are real. Fighting hunger is not only a matter of humanitarian aid, but also important for global stability. Hungry people cannot advance their communities when their lives are spent looking for their next meal. Desperate nations spar with themselves over scarce necessities, and become easy targets for adversarial neighbors looking to capitalize on their weaknesses.

Our nation has been a leader in working to eradicate extreme hunger around the world and improve global food security. Our achievements on this front have been remarkable. As Secretary of Agriculture, I saw firsthand the benefits of our food aid programs. This investment is returned to us in the appreciation and affection felt by the recipients of these dollars. It’s an important diplomatic tool because it shows that Americans care about the most basic needs of people living in poverty around the world.

Even though we live in a landlocked state in the middle of the country, Nebraska farmers are always thinking globally. And there’s a simple reason for that: beyond our borders the demand for our products is on the rise. Crops grown in Nebraska soil are used to keep people alive on the other side of the globe. As developing countries become wealthier, they demand more beef, and Nebraska leads the nation in its production.

Meeting these demands means expanding on Borlaug’s mission of increasing ag productivity. The Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska is just one example of how our state is prepared to meet this challenge. We’ve had to learn how to ensure agriculture thrives despite scarce water resources. The Institute is using that knowledge to find solutions for sustainable water management that benefits countries throughout the world.

We must continue to embrace science-based innovations like plant and animal genetics and conservation techniques that help a safe and healthy food supply meet a growing demand. I applaud the work of Nebraska’s ag community to explore new and creative ways to feed the world and help to save a billion lives.

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