Three major problems plague the world today and what happens in agriculture will help shape the resolution of these issues, according to former President Bill Clinton.
The president — speaking before a crowd of 2,000 attendees at the 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum held last week in Arlington, Va. — said that agriculture will play a major role in aiding the world during troubled times, but serious decisions need to be made, not just “happy talk.”
“We are living in a highly complicated environment,” said Clinton, who recognized inequality, an unstable environment and unsustainable environment as worldwide issues that need a solution. “These problems are quite significant. They affect rural America, they affect farmers and they affect the ability of people who are family farmers to keep farming.”
Clinton said there is too much inequality in the world. One problem in the U.S., he noted is that prior to the new health care law being passed, 17.2 percent of the national income was spent on health care that only covered 84 percent of the population.
“No other wealthy country of any size spent any more than 10 and a half percent,” said Clinton. “If we had any other country’s health system we would spend a trillion dollars less on health care, which could be put into the incomes of ordinary people.”
He added that inequality the threat of terrorism and political upheavals in the Middle East makes predictability hard and creates an unstable atmosphere. These issues are large factors on the farm along with an unsustainable environment caused by climate change and resource depletion.
With the world population expected to grow from six to nine billion by 2040, American farmers will need to be able to feed the population and still provide enough food for exports and make money, according to Clinton. But there needs to be a balance and the ability to help other countries support themselves and the world population through agriculture.
“Somehow we had this idea that we could help developing countries move into the industrial age without agriculture,” said Clinton. Through his foundation, Clinton said he has helped countries in Africa and Latin America start agricultural projects that have provided income to impoverished areas. “We try hard to help people find ways to help themselves when the economy is not good,” he said.
Yet, the rapidly growing population around the world has got to find a way to feed itself today and in the future. The solution, according to Clinton, is to educate more girls and give them access to more work, which will help slow the birth rate.
“We want to live in a world that we can share with other people and be rewarded by it,” said Clinton. “This is an exciting time to be alive. Go make the most of it.”