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Remarks for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as prepared for delivery Address at China Agricultural University Beijing, China

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Good day everyone. It's a pleasure for me to be here with students and faculty. The China Agriculture University Center for Life Sciences has an impressive tradition and history of success as the nation's top agriculture program. Thanks to the quality education and training you receive here, I know that students in this room will go on to be leaders in agriculture, government, business, and at Universities across China.

I want to thank the University for hosting this event -- as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's offices in Beijing for organizing my visit. I'm here because I recognize the importance of maintaining a strong relationship between our nations and the continued possibilities for partnership in agriculture, trade, research and education in the years to come. I look forward to spending time here and to strengthening our bond in the years ahead.

Today, trade of agricultural products between our two nations is substantial and growing rapidly. However, the U.S.-China relationship goes far beyond agriculture and trade. Our mutual respect and partnership on a host of issues has contributed to the prosperity of both of our countries.

As two great nations, with great agricultural economies, we complement one another. We have a tremendous capacity to build a better world. We also have the responsibility -- and opportunity -- to work together is in addressing world hunger.

Some of you may be familiar with the statistics. Across the globe, an estimated 925 million people were hungry or undernourished last year. A quarter of them are children. While this is an improvement from 2009, it is still unacceptably high.

Where hunger is most pervasive, in Sub-Saharan Africa and even in your neighboring states of Mongolia, India and North Korea, chronic undernourishment and vitamin deficiencies can lead to stunted growth and make children more susceptible to illness. Throughout the developing world, a child dies every five seconds from malnutrition and related causes.

Providing food for everyone around the work is first and foremost a moral issue. No one should go to sleep hungry -- especially children. But its impact is broader than that.

No matter where they live, children will only realize their full potential if they have regular access to food. Giving a child the opportunity for a brighter, more productive, future affects not only the individual child, but the community where that child is raised, the country where he or she lives, and the entire world.

Working to feed hungry people will provide incredible economic benefits across the globe. Millions will leave poverty. It will increase political stability in conflict and poverty-stricken regions, and put these countries on a path to future prosperity.

So feeding the world is not just a challenge for our nations. It is a challenge for human kind. Our goals are clear: to bring down the number of hungry people by increasing the availability and accessibility of nutritious food to people around the world.

For decades, food aid has been the main international tool in this effort. Your government has increasingly provided support and donations of food to developing nations. This emergency aid plays an important role in preventing famine and it must continue.

Food aid alone is not enough. We must help nations produce their own food supply by strengthening agriculture around the globe.

America's President Barack Obama set the benchmark for this approach when he said, "The true sign of success is not whether we are a source of perpetual aid that helps people scrape by, it's whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change." I too believe that we need transformational change to establish food security across the globe.

Your nation exemplified this transformational change. A famine from 1958 to 1961 -- the 'three years of natural disasters' -- claimed the lives of millions of your countrymen.

Today, China has become a nation that not only feeds itself, but also helps feed the rest of the world. You are a major exporter of fruits, vegetables, garlic, seafood and other agricultural products. In the process, 300 million of your countrymen have come out of poverty.

We must help other nations make the same change, increasing both the sustainability and productivity of global agriculture. Global population growth means we must increase agricultural production by 70 percent by 2050 to feed 9 billion people who will inhabit the earth.

Our success is not guaranteed. Farmers and ranchers must confront the uncertainty of global climate change and the constraints of limited water resources. I have faith that your generation -- the scientists, policy makers and farmers -- will meet these challenges.

Farmers -- in particular -- are capable of extraordinary accomplishments. In America, over the last 100 years, our farmers helped us move from subsistence production to build an agriculture industry that makes us one of the world's largest food exporters. Your farmers and producers are also now enjoying increased production.

This evolution was not pre-ordained. Farmers adapted and changed to embrace new ideas and practices to become more productive. These new technologies emerged from the imagination and hard work of our scientists.

The same approach will work globally if we adhere to three basic strategies. Our first strategy must be that the solution to global food security lies in innovation, arising from research and development.

Right now, improved understanding of genetics is again changing what we plant, how and where. By better predicting and accelerating the results of plant breeding, the world is finding new varieties of crops that resist pests and survive new diseases. They thrive in the heat and grow in salty and toxic soil.

This necessary and important agricultural research is going on around the world. In Africa and the Middle East we must combat a devastating fungus called Ug-99 which has the potential to threaten wheat crops that feed 1 billion people. Partnered with researchers in from Kenya, China and other nations, the United States Department of Agriculture is using genetics to help find wheat strains that are resistant to Ug-99.

At the International Rice Research Center in the Philippines, researchers from around the globe helped develop a flood-tolerant rice variety that shuts down during flooding conditions, but resumes growth afterwards. This is an important step forward with the potential to transform rice production in flood prone areas.

Our research must also follow a second strategy: the solution to global food security need not and should not sacrifice efforts to conserve our natural resources and take care of our environment.

That's why scientists are working on technologies and methods to use water more efficiently, to improve soil conservation, and increase productivity of the soil itself. You understand this. Some Chinese scientists are particularly interested in continuing to increase grain production despite the possibility of water shortages and a steady or declining area of arable cropland. In the past years, your government has increased their investment in agricultural research.

This year, your nation also took a step to help confront global climate change by joining with the U.S. and 30 other nations in the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. This important partnership will coordinate investments and research to reduce emissions from agriculture and help mitigate the global threat of climate change.

As we move forward with these principles for feeding the world, both China and the U.S. are lucky to have a great tradition of groundbreaking agricultural research to build upon. For example, some of the most important advancements of the last century were discovered by an American scientist named Dr. Norman Borlaug.

Norman Borlaug was born in a small town in my home state of Iowa. He grew up though some of the most difficult economic times America has ever faced. After seeing hunger around him, he decided to dedicate his life to the problems of food production.

In Mexico, his research led to a more productive variety of wheat that could be grown in all kinds of conditions and was also resistant to common diseases. This wheat was quickly adapted across Mexico helping produce enough food to feed its growing population.

Next, Borlaug brought this same breakthrough to India and Pakistan, where he was credited with saving hundreds of millions of people from starvation. For this work, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Borlaug understood the value of agricultural research as well as anyone. Towards the end of his life, Dr. Borlaug decided that agricultural research deserved its own annual honor -- like a Nobel Prize. So he helped found the World Food Prize. For the past 25 years, this award has honored research scientists, political officials and other leaders who combat hunger -- raising their profile and celebrating their efforts to help feed a hungry world.

There have been two Chinese recipients of this prestigious award. Former Minister of Agriculture He Kang was recognized for his leadership and support for reforms, research and education that led to incredible increases in the productivity of Chinese farmers. Prof. Yuan Longping -- known as 'the father of hybrid rice' -- was honored for important research that improved rice yields by more than 20%.

I hope you all continue that tradition. Because to build on the gains we've made in agricultural productivity around the world, we need to continue to pursue breakthroughs, and we need young people like you to dedicate your lives to this work.

Perhaps there is another Norman Borlaug or future World Food Prize recipient in this very room today. Someone who will work hard, follow their dreams and take the next steps in innovative research that we need to support farmers in their work to feed the world. Perhaps that research could take place right here at the China Agricultural University.

The third strategy for pursuing global food security recognizes that our efforts must focus on needs identified by specific countries, regions and local farmers. Neither the United States or China should dictate solutions -- we must work collaboratively.

The entire global community must work together, leveraging resources to support farmers and strengthen agriculture at the country, regional and farm level. At the end of the day, no one but farmers and ranchers can produce the food that feeds the world.

So to meet future demand for food, we must help farmers adopt the latest seed technology, improve their irrigation systems and their land and animal management techniques. We must help them appropriately apply fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides when needed. To make sure that a good harvest isn't wasted we must develop local infrastructure like roads and cold storage. To pass benefits to farmer and their nation, we must encourage vibrant local markets with transparent information and improved financial services.

Farming, even with modern technology and practices in place, is unpredictable, so we must ensure the flow of food to regions hit by natural disasters like flooding or drought. That means encouraging nations to trade internationally, helping them regulate the safety of their food, so that safe, nutritious products can reach the places where they are needed.

Since President Obama was elected, the United States government has worked hard to pursue all these strategies. Through our Feed the Future initiative, we are focused on raising the productivity and incomes of small farmers in specific regions within 20 countries. We are bringing together the capabilities of multiple parts of the U.S. Government -- as well as other international, private and non-governmental partners -- to pursue research and build local capacity.

In Bangladesh, one country where we are focused, USDA and partners are working with local farmer associations to help small farm families practicing aquaculture to become more productive. Farmers have received training on how to raise prawns in addition to fish. Many also began to grow vegetables on fallow land next to existing fish ponds. This has helped farmers more than double their income, and also provides a supply of healthy vegetables that is enhancing nutrition for farm families in the region. To make these practices sustainable, the project has worked to establish prawn hatcheries and marketing facilities.

But the battle to improve farming must be a global effort, and over the past few years the global community has become more engaged. In 2009, G-8 leaders committed to increasing international assistance for agricultural development to 20 billion American dollars. The conversation continued between last year between agricultural ministers of the G-20 nations and it will be discussed at next year's U.N. conference on sustainable development in Brazil.

It must go beyond financial commitments. This international effort must embrace partnerships and collaboration. The U.S. and China can and should lead the world community to meet our food security challenge, especially through a commitment to research.

In 1979, the first bilateral agreement signed between our nations promised cooperation on science and technology. Recent collaborations between the USDA and your Ministry of Science and Technology have looked at food safety issues, improving soils, producing sustainable biofuels and sharing plant genetic material. This year we renewed the partnership agreement, a reminder that that our two nations must continue these critical exchanges on agricultural research. We also have a long-running Scientific and Cooperation Exchange Program with China's Ministry of Agriculture. Over the past thirty years, more than 2,150 American and Chinese scientists have participated in this program, helping to build strong technical exchange links.

Education presents another important venue for collaboration. I know that your University has established a partnership with America's North Carolina State University. Students have traveled in both directions to seek our new educational opportunities. I hope they are benefiting from this exchange, which should foster new ideas and innovative thinking to help build the next generation of global leaders in agriculture.

In the years ahead, we must continue to work together to tackle food security. Helping countries and farmers pursue agricultural development makes moral and economic sense. Our nations are vibrant trading partners, a relationship that benefits citizens in both our countries.

Yesterday, I met with several of China's key leaders in agriculture, including the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Science and Technology. We renewed our commitments to our existing cooperative programs and discussed how to better use our resources to face today's challenges. Now, more than ever, it is important that the United States and China work together as true partners and use our combined expertise and technical know-how to address global challenges in food security, food safety and sustainable agriculture.

With the education provided by this University, each student in this room has the opportunity to help lead the effort. I hope that I can count on many of you to get engaged in this work to make an impact in your nation and around the world. The world's economic and political stability, and the prosperity of our two nations, depends on our meeting this challenge.

Thanks so much.


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