FAO in North America

"Harnessing Innovation to Feed the World" by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America, delivering his speech during the World Food Day Ceremony 2017, FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy.

As a global community, we share a common responsibility to feed the growing world population. Farmers and food producers around the world face the same two overarching challenges to achieve this goal. First, to produce enough food to meet the needs of growing populations and rising standards of living. And second, to have sustainable food systems in place that protect the natural resource base on which that agriculture depends on. As we observe World Food Day 2020, it’s important to embrace the policies and practices that feed the world. Only by continuing to embrace innovative and transformative technologies are we as a world going to be able to produce enough food for the future. 

 In order to feed the world, farmers need to be profitable and food needs to be affordable even as we reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint. Embracing the policies of fair and reciprocal trade, along with a robust free market, will undoubtedly bring people out of poverty and drive economic growth. To ensure success, we must balance all three pillars of agricultural sustainability: environmental, social, and economic.

 Environmental sustainabilityis critical to maintaining the health of our soil, water, and air while meeting growing food and fiber demand. The United States is an example of how environmental sustainability can be achieved. Over the last 90 years, we have increased production by 400 percent while decreasing acres used by 10 percent.Any policy approach that unnecessarily sacrifices productivity to meet environmental goals will fail the responsibility of feeding the planet.

 Social sustainability likewise needs to be a priority. By increasing productivity and efficiency we contribute to food security by improving the accessibility and affordability of food. In 1950, 72 percent of the world’s population lived below the poverty line. Today, it’s less than 10 percent. By embracing the values of self-determination and human rights, the past 75 years have seen tremendous advancements in prosperity, scientific discovery and vast improvements in the human condition. This post-war global economic order has spurred investment in new technologies and now we are able to produce more food and trade it globally, which directly benefits people all over the world. Improving environmental and economic sustainability counts for nothing if consumers cannot afford to put safe, nutritious, high-quality food on the table.

 That’s why economic sustainability is equally important. Farming needs to be profitable to continue to attract young farmers to the profession. Increasing productivity is one of the only ways to ensure decent livelihoods for farmers and farm workers. We know farmers will continue to face input and regulatory costs in the future. That means they will need a reliable way to increase income to stay in business. In my travels over the past several years I’ve heard from farmers all over the world that they want to earn their income at the market rather than through government support. Moreover, successful farmers are usually the best environmental stewards. In the United States we’ve seen that profitability and environmental protections do not have to be mutually exclusive.

 As the United States and FAO, in its 75th year, pursue our common goals of global food security and sustainable food production, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that government policies foster, rather than hinder, those efforts. That means continuing to fight for policies that are transparent, science-based, and trade-enabling. By embracing sustainability in all its dimensions, together we can “Do Right and Feed Everyone.”


- Sonny Perdue, 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture