AFP / via Google News
August 5, 2009

NAIROBI — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for a new approach to food aid, saying one that aims to boost agriculture is a key part of the new US administration’s foreign policy.
In Nairobi at the start of an African tour, Clinton toured a farm institute where she heard of efforts to increase crop yields, improve the role of women and develop seeds that can withstand the continent’s droughts.
Clinton highlighted a 20 billion-dollar plan spearheaded last month by President Barack Obama under which the United States and 30 other countries will help small farmers grow more food.
"We are convinced that investing in agriculture is one of the most high-impact, cost-effective strategies available for reducing poverty and saving and improving lives," Clinton said at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.
"That’s why we have made this a signature element of our nation’s foreign policy," Clinton said, standing amid tall stocks of maize, which security guards peered through.
Deploring that some one billion people around the world suffer from hunger, Clinton said rich nations for too long have shipped emergency food rather than helping poor nations improve their crop yields.
Likewise, Clinton said that developing nations should see farming as a modern, tech-savvy profession, not a way of the past.
"If you don’t do agriculture, you don’t eat, and that’s the most important goal of any society," she said.
Despite the initiative, rich and developing nations remain deeply at odds over agriculture — a topic that has brought the so-called Doha negotiations at the World Trade Organization on a global free trade accord to the brink of collapse.
The developing countries accuse the United States, Europe, Japan and other rich economies of distorting markets through their agricultural subsidies, ultimately contributing to hunger.
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, appearing alongside Clinton, said the United States "is prepared to talk about subsidies" in the Doha round.
But he added: "What we’re hoping to see as well through this negotiation is a continued opening of global markets for our products."
Kenyan Agriculture Minister William Samoei Arap Ruto acknowledged that the two nations remained at loggerheads over subsidies but said they should work together to fight hunger.
"As this debates goes on, there is a lot that we can do for the African farmer," he said.
Developing nations, particularly in Africa, suffered from a food crisis last year with prices skyrocketting due to a perfect storm of factors including the growing use of biofuels to fight global warming and rising meat consumption in emerging economies such as China and India.