Weekly Columns

Agriculture is the cornerstone of Arkansas’s economy. It’s a way of life for families in rural communities across our state. For generations, men and women have proudly devoted their lives to producing the food and fiber that feeds and clothes the world. Their job is vital as we confront new global threats and we must ensure they have the tools and the resources to rise to the challenge.

The International Monetary Fund recently released a report detailing the global hunger crisis and warned food insecurity is on the rise. The organization reports this problem has been increasing since 2018, and now with the war in Ukraine as well as increased costs for food and fertilizer, the situation is even more dire.

It’s a problem UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley has seen firsthand, and in early November he shared his solutions for tackling this emergency at an event on the Harding University campus.

As part of the school’s distinguished lecture series, I was honored to join him on a panel about the future of global food security. Beasley and WFP staff visited Arkansas and discussed ongoing efforts to combat hunger. Beasley warned the next two years will be a challenge as millions of people are “marching to starvation” as a result of escalating conflicts, food inaccessibility and increased prices.

He understands the problem better than anyone. In 2020, under Beasley’s leadership, the WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to fight hunger, promote peace in conflict-affected areas and prevent the weaponization of food as part of war and hostilities.

As Beasley has noted, America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities are vital in helping the WFP achieve its mission. As the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I’m committed to providing our agricultural producers throughout the country with the safety nets and risk management tools they need to sustain production.

The U.S. agricultural industry is experiencing significant challenges with an increase in input costs. Fertilizer prices have nearly tripled since January 2021, and diesel prices have increased by nearly 150 percent over this same time period. The cost of borrowing is on the rise too as interest rates are rising at the fastest pace in nearly 40 years. These are some of the biggest expenses for farmers and the costs are going up because of labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and historic inflation.

We’ll be working in the coming year to craft an updated farm bill that supports the current needs of the industry in order to continue producing the most abundant, affordable and safest food supply in the world.

Beasley acknowledged it’s up to world leaders to help end hunger and U.S. leadership to alleviate food insecurity is indispensable. In Congress, we’ve taken steps to combat hunger and malnutrition by supporting the mission of the WFP.

Last month, the president signed into law the bipartisan Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, legislation I championed to help fight food insecurity and improve coordination with our partners around the world to deliver help to children and families most in need.

We know we have more work to do. We can be grateful for the WFP and other public, private and charitable organizations helping deliver hope and nutritional provisions to those struggling. This is a humanitarian crisis, but it is also a matter of great national security importance.

As we write out our shopping lists for Thanksgiving dinner, it’s important we think about those who don’t have access to food. Arkansans have always been generous and willing to give back to people in need. Whether it’s donating to a local food bank or volunteering time to help serve meals, there is a role for us all to play to help our neighbors in need.