“Managing for [climate] volatility is something that we’re really thinking about a lot,” shared Patrick F. O’Toole, Owner and Manager of Laddar Livestock and President of the Family Farm Alliance, at this afternoon’s discussion panel at The Chicago Council for Global Affairs’ Global Food Security Symposium 2014.
Extreme weather events and changing climates impact food at every level of the value-chain. From lost crops, to food shortages, to increased prices, volatile weather has the potential to decrease food supply and accessibility worldwide.
Today’s panelists weighed in on how to protect food supplies and secure farmer’s incomes when faced with changing climates. Edward Luce, Chief U.S. Commentator and Columnist at the Financial Times, chaired the discussion.
An important method of assuring global food security is international trade, argued Darci L. Vetter, Deputy Under Secretary of Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Trade moves food from areas of excess supply to areas of excess demand. Vetter believes that as extreme weather events continue to occur, the ability to import food will become a vital tool in preventing famine and food crises.
Insurance is vital to farmers when their livelihoods are devastated by volatile weather. Making insurance against climactic events more widely available to farmers could help millions, but panelists agreed that finding the right insurance model is difficult. Juerg Trueb, Managing Director of the Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd. said, “It’s not the issue to have climate change insurance as such, but to actually insure against a certain event.” O’Toole agreed, adding that while farmers need safety nets as climate change continues, insurance “needs to be event specific” and “transparent to producers.”
The discussion ultimately turned toward the US government’s role in ensuring food security amidst changing climates. Vetter expressed that while getting food security measures passed may be difficult, “the ground work is being laid to talk about food security as also national security policy.” She indicates, “In places that people don’t expect, there’s a climate change or a food security conversation popping up.” James Cameron, Chairman of Climate Change Capital agreed that changing the language around food security is a good way to get results. “Security is a very good word for us to focus on,” Cameron said, adding that action doesn’t occur “unless you zoom in on what needs to be done.”
Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute, concluded remarks and left the audience with an important message. “I think knowledge-based evidence is very important,” he said. “We need to communicate this report, not just to the people in the room but to everybody in America, so they will know the importance of this issue.”