MSU professor Thomas Jayne testifies on The Next Farm Bill

MSU Professor Thomas Jayne was requested to testify before the House Committee on Agriculture on "The Next Farm Bill: The Future of International Food Aid and Agricultural Development," June 7.

June 16, 2017

Thomas Jayne

Michigan State University expertise on international development strategy is well recognized by the U.S. government. Professor Thomas Jayne was requested to testify before the House Committee on Agriculture on “The Next Farm Bill: The Future of International Food Aid and Agricultural Development,” June 7.

Jayne’s presentation focused on three points that explain why it is in the U.S.’ national interest to support agricultural development in African countries.

First, the main source of growth in the world’s demand for food will be in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa’s food imports have risen sevenfold over the past 15 years and continue to rise rapidly with this region’s rapid population growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to contain 24 percent of the world’s population by 2050. Income growth in Africa will further accelerate the region’s demand for U.S. food exports and support hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs at home as well as abroad. With 70 percent of the African population engaged in farming, the agricultural sector is the main entry point for improving livelihoods and encouraging the region’s transformation to a more diversified and prosperous economy.

Secondly, agricultural development contributes to economic stability and peace. It is an important source of employment for African youth, when 65 percent of the population is under 25 years of age. Agricultural sector growth and gainful youth employment is one of the most effective ways to avert recruitment of youth into extremist groups.

Thirdly, U.S. development assistance projects “soft power.” It generates good will and influence at all levels. It’s a strategy increasingly employed by China, which educates over 1,000 Africans per year in Mandarin, offers them advanced degree training in China, and supports their integration into influential private and public sector positions in their home countries.

Jayne stated that U.S. efforts have improved African countries’ economies, but much more should be done to develop local agricultural institutions. He reminded the committee of how U.S. agriculture benefited from its own homegrown agricultural institutions, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Systems and land-grant universities. Africa needs similar institutions in their own countries.

For all of these reasons, it’s in the best interest of the U.S. to further support agricultural development in Africa.

See also Jayne’s article in The Conversation (February 1, 2017): “Why the U.S. Has a lot to Gain From Investing in Africa’s Agri-food Systems.”

Thomas Jayne is University Foundation Professor of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics and co-director of the Alliance for African Partnership, a university-wide initiative to promote long-term collaborations with African research and policy organizations. Jayne is a Distinguished Fellow of the African Association of Agricultural Economists, and the chair-elect of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association’s Africa section. He has mentored dozens of young African professionals and played a major role in building MSU’s partnerships with African agricultural policy research institutes.

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