A presidentially appointed panel that offers the U.S. Agency for International Development advice on global food security-related issues will move forward with a new chairman and three other new members.
President Barack Obama recently named the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) members from private industry, a major charity and higher education. They are scheduled to join three continuing members at the board's meeting June 24 in Washington.
The board is mandated to have four members from the academic community. The board also advises on the role of higher education in international agricultural development. Panelists advise USAID, which has a $21.9 billion budget to promote peace and stability by fostering economic growth, protecting human health, providing emergency humanitarian assistance and enhancing democracy in developing countries, its website says.
Two new members and one continuing member also are World Food Prize laureates, noted Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator. The prize recognizes individuals who helped improve the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. Often given to food scientists, the prize in 2010 was shared by two grassroots hunger fighters: David Beckmann, who heads Bread for the World, and Heifer International's Jo Luck. Luck is one of the new BIFAD appointees.
Here's a look at the new BIFAD members and what they said their appointments mean to them.
Brady J. Deaton, the new BIFAD chairman, is the University of Missouri's chancellor who previously was chair of agricultural economics. He told the student newspaper, The Maneater, that the board will work toward agricultural and technological innovation that will allow countries to feed themselves. "I’ve had a lot of experience in organizing and building a framework for conducting research, conducting education and stimulating private sector development," said the former Peace Corps volunteer who taught vocational agriculture in Thailand. "This job brings all that together."
Luck is president Heifer International, which provides cows, goats, water buffalo and other livestock to thousands of people in more than 50 countries, including the United States. The charity focuses on helping the poor become self-sufficient and urges the people it helps to go on to train others. "Food security is a critical aspect of global humanitarian assistance and sustainable development," said Luck in a statement, adding she plans to focus on the smallholder farmer, the empowerment of women and a greater multilateral private and public dialogue regarding these issues. "I have seen first-hand how enabling self-sufficiency for poverty-stricken families can lead to improved health, better education, inspired entrepreneurial spirit, community unity, positive leadership and personal dignity."
Marty McVey is president of McVey & Co. Investments, a private equity firm that focuses primarily on health care, real estate and energy investments. He is founded Safi Energy, a renewable energy company. "I come from the private sector, not academia," McVey told msnbc.com. He said he hopes to bring efficiencies to the agency to make sure dollars allocated, "a gift from the American people," are used judiciously and get to the people they are intended for. "We can help people in need help themselves" and create wealth for themselves. "Commerce and trade would take over" from aid, he said. "For example, at some point the war in Iraq is going to end. What comes next? Will USAID presence be increased?"
Gebisa Ejeta is a Purdue University professor, executive director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security and the 2009 World Food Prize laureate who has worked in plant and crop science. Ejeta in a prepared statement noted that a USAID predecessor built the high school and college he attended in his native Ethiopia. "I have now gone full circle," Ejeta said. "From a young African child given an opportunity for education by an act of a U.S. government body such as this to now having the chance to offer a new vision or a new policy directive that may give a similar chance for an education to another African child or a life-saving act for another child somewhere. What a privilege and responsibility."
The new members replace Robert Easter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign interim chancellor and former BIFAD chairman; Tim Rabon of Mesa Verde Industries in New Mexico, and H.H. Barlow III, who has served on the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board.
The continuing board members are William DeLauder, president emeritus, Delaware State University; Elsa Murano, president emerita, Texas A&M University; and Catherine Bertini, professor, Maxwell School of Public Affairs and Diplomacy, Syracuse University and the 2003 World Food Prize laureate.
The board's June meeting coincides with the 2011 World Food Prize announcement and Feed the Future Research priorities meeting, USAID says on its website.