May 3, 2011
On Tuesday, May 3, a new federal food, agriculture, and rural development policy initiative was launched by eight major foundations at a press event in DC. The new eight-year project will be aimed at “transforming US food and agriculture policy” with an equal focus on domestic and international impacts. It will be known as “AGree,” a name presumably chosen to connote an agricultural focus as well as a big tent common denominator meeting of the minds between diverse viewpoints.
Speaking at the launch event were the four national co-chairs of the initiative: Dan Glickman, former Kansas congressman and USDA Secretary during the Clinton years; Gary Hirschberg, chairman and CEO of Stonyfield Farm; Jim Moseley, Indiana farmer and former USDA Deputy Secretary during the George W. Bush years, and Emmy Simmons, a 30-year veteran and former assistant administrator at US AID.
Also speaking was recently hired Executive Director for the project, Deborah Atwood. Atwood most recently represented the Mars company, and previously served as staff assistant to Deputy Secretary Moseley, as lobbyist for the National Pork Producers Council and before that the American Meat Institute, as a Deputy Associate Administrator for Congressional and Legislative Affairs for EPA during the George H.W. Bush years, and as staff to former Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA).
The new project is being housed and managed by the Meridian Institute, a group specializing in designing collaborative approaches between multiple parties on public policy and assisting with facilitation, mediation, and logistics.
The project will not function as a think tank, but will rather commission academics and others to produce policy papers. Heading up the research effort will be Mil Duncan, until recently a professor of sociology and the founding director of the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute. The Carsey Institute specializes in rural development and rural poverty issues.
The scope of the project is quite broad, including the Farm Bill, Child Nutrition Act, Clean Water Act, energy policy, food safety, trade policy, foreign assistance legislation, and rural development policies and programs. There will be a 25-person stakeholder advisory committee to work with the co-chairs and staff. The work will be divided into three categories — agricultural productivity/environmental performance, nutrition, and rural development.
The first year will include scoping work, followed by a couple of years of commissioned papers and policy recommendation formulation, followed by a multi-year effort at implementation of those recommendations, the latter to include advocacy related to the farm bill that follows the 2012 Farm Bill.
The policy project is being funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Davide and Lucile Packard Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and The Walton Family Foundation.
Read more about AGree on the newly launched website.