Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez At the 2022 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony

5 May

Jose W. Fernandez, Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  Good morning, everyone.  Welcome to the State Department.  Like to welcome Under Secretary Fernandez, President Stinson, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen.  Good morning and welcome to the 2022 World Food Prize Laureate announcement ceremony.  I know some of you are joining us virtually, but I’m happy to have the chance to see so many people here in person today.

We’re delighted to have you join us both in this historic room and online.

For more than 30 years, the World Food Prize has recognized and celebrated individuals who advance the cause of food security and nutrition around the world.  It’s the U.S. Department of State’s honor to host this event in person this year after two years of fully virtual events.

We’re glad to be joined by Special Envoy for Global Food Security Dr. Cary Fowler.  I’d also like to thank Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for participating in this event.  While he’s unable to join us in person, we’re grateful for his pre-recorded remarks for today’s ceremony.

At the State Department and particularly in the bureau I’m responsible for, the Bureau for Economic and Business Affairs, we greatly value our longstanding relationship with the World Food Prize Foundation.  Our mutual focus on promoting innovation and science-based solutions, much like the prize’s namesake, Dr. Norman Borlaug, are needed more than ever to address the complex food security challenges facing the world.

Unfortunately, those challenges are being exacerbated at this very moment by Vladimir Putin’s unjustified, unprovoked war against Ukraine, which has put millions more around the globe at risk of food insecurity.

Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s most significant exporters of agricultural commodities and fertilizer.  And by conducting his war of aggression against Ukraine, Putin has guaranteed that the costs of his reckless campaign will be felt beyond Ukraine by the world’s most vulnerable citizens for years – and for years to come.

The work of the World Food Prize Foundation is more important now than ever as we face both the consequences of this war and other challenges, like climate change and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And now to announce this year’s World Food Prize laureate, I welcome to the stage World Food Prize Foundation President Barbara Stinson.  (Applause.)

MS STINSON:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you, Assistant Secretary Toloui – thank you to Secretary Blinken; our thoughts are with you; thank you for inviting us in – Under Secretary Fernandez and Dr. Fowler, and the U.S. State Department for hosting the announcement in the beautiful Benjamin Franklin Room.

We are so pleased to be back in person after two years.  We appreciate 20 years of incredible partnership with the State Department, and I’d also like to thank Secretary Tom Vilsack.  We appreciate your partnership over these many years, working with us to announce the 2022 laureate, and I’m also happy to welcome Jennifer Moffitt, Chavonda Jacobs-Young, also here with us today.

Other friends are also here from USDA, and truly, our partners from around the world, everyone here in the room – we thank you.  Special guest, his honor – His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn, welcome – from Ethiopia.  Thank you.

At the World Food Prize Foundation, our mission is to elevate innovations and inspire action to sustainably increase the quality, quantity, and availability of food for all.  Today we recognize an individual who epitomizes this mission.

Let me also thank Paul Schickler, who’s here with us as chair of our board of directors, and the council of advisors.  We have representatives of the council of advisors – they’d give us sage advice throughout the year – and we have both Dr. Jacobs-Young with us today, Mort Neufville, and Ismail Serageldin.  Thank you for coming.

Dr. Norman Borlaug was the father of the Green Revolution, and it’s said to have saved over a billion lives through his agricultural innovations.  He envisioned an annual prize honoring significant and measurable achievements in improving the world’s food supply, and he inspired others to action.  Dr. Gebisa Ejeta is one of those, 2009 World Food Prize laureate and the chair of our independent group of experts who support the selection committee of the World Food Prize.  Thank you to Gebisa.

Today I announce the 2022 World Food Prize laureate, who will join 51 others who advanced human development through their innovations in food and agriculture, but also for nutrition, aquatic foods, soil health, food technology and infrastructure, economics, and humanitarian leadership.

I am pleased to have one of our laureates here today, David Beckmann.  He received the 2010 World Food Prize.

We are faced with unprecedented challenges in global food security, with the war in Ukraine, escalating food prizes, food availability and access challenges, and the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and climate change.  This triple threat impacts our world’s hungry, poor, and vulnerable the most.

Today we recognize and elevate the work of our 52nd laureate, who’s making seminal global contributions to climate change modeling for transforming food systems.  She has spent four decades cultivating our understanding of biophysical and socioeconomic impacts that climate change and food systems have on each other, improving the methods that we use to predict these trends.  Her collaborative research provides the scientific evidence used by thousands of decision makers in more than 90 countries that are striving to both mitigate the impacts of and adapt to climate change.  Our laureate’s work shows that data-driven strategies curb climate change impacts and enhance sustainable food production at the same time.

An agronomist and a climatologist, she has been a leader in the field of food and climate since the early 1980s when she carried out some of the first studies on how climate change would impact food production in North America.  She quickly escalated this work and elevated to global studies, incorporating economics, social research, using agricultural science and climate modeling to better understand and predict trends.  She was one of the first to document the impacts of climate change on our food supply.

Her work as lead and co-lead author on international assessments contributed to our scientific foundation of the UN Framework Convention for* Climate Change.  Her research directly supports work in more than 20 countries to develop national adaptation plans and to determine their contributions.  She founded the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Program, AgMIP.  It’s a global transdisciplinary network of more than a thousand leading researchers from around the world.  AgMIP sets the gold standard for climate and food systems modeling.  Our laureate led the development of protocols to improve model performance in diverse conditions, and coordinated assessments across many different disciplines and scales.

As a farmer herself, our laureate understands the importance of centering farmers in agricultural research, as both the most important beneficiaries of the research and custodians of practical indigenous knowledge.  AgMIP helps us understand climate risks in various scenarios, and assures that both public policy and our investments are going to serve farmers of all types equitably.

For her energy and insight this brilliant trailblazer brings to addressing climate change and transforming food systems, I am so pleased to announce that the 2022 World Food Prize laureate is Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig of the United States.  (Applause.)

Dr. Rosenzweig is a senior research scientist and head of the Climate Impacts group at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  I am pleased to have Administrator of NASA Bill Nelson here with us today.  Thank you for coming.  To learn more about Dr. Rosenzweig, see her story. It’s going to be passed out as you leave the room.  It’s available on our website right away, now, and – (laughter) – boom – and it’s also going to be an opportunity to learn more about her at Live with the Laureate, which is a webcast that we’ll present on Thursday, May 26th.

And it will be my honor to present the World Food Prize at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, October 20th, so please plan to join us.  The 2022 International Borlaug Dialogue will take place in Des Moines.  It will be in person and virtually.  As always, we will be addressing the theme of feeding a fragile world – to address the nexus of agriculture, climate change, and food and nutrition security.

Thank you all for coming today.  Thank you for celebrating.  I’m going to turn it back to you, Assistant Secretary Toloui.  I hope to see all of you in Des Moines, where you can meet the 2022 World Food Prize laureate, Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig.  (Applause.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  Thank you, President Stinson, for those remarks.  And congratulations to the New World Food Prize laureate, Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig.  I’m very proud that my home state of Iowa is going to be hosting the ceremony.

I’d now like to turn to Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez, who will offer congratulations and remarks of his own.

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  Thank you and good morning.  And thank you, Ramin.  My talking points say, “Thank you for that warm introduction,” but I’ll cut the warm for – (laughter).  Thank you so much.  And thank you really for the work that you and your team are doing, the good work that you’re doing to strengthen food security worldwide, especially in the face of Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine.  And Barbara , I – as someone who went to Iowa when I was assistant secretary three times, it’s a real show.  It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a real celebration.  So hopefully – hopefully I can get back there.

Thank you again, Barbara, to you and to everyone at the World Food Prize Foundation for your outstanding work in fighting world hunger and supporting extraordinary individuals like this year’s laureate, Cynthia – Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig.

I don’t need to tell you this: this is a critical moment for food security.  In 2021, more than 160 million people worldwide experienced acute food insecurity, a 19 percent jump – a 19 percent jump – from the year before.  Millions more are poised to fall into food insecurity due to the Russian Government’s war in Ukraine.  As many of you know, Ukraine supplies a significant amount of the world’s wheat and corn, but this can’t happen when farmers have been forced to fight or have had to flee invading troops, and when they don’t have the diesel fuel to operate tractors and other equipment.  Russian troops have destroyed port facilities, they’ve blocked food shipments in the Black Sea that get food to the rest of the world, and as a result, it’s not only displaced Ukrainians who are going hungry, but it’s also created hunger around the world for people who depend on these crops.

The issue of food security has grown even more urgent, and the effects of food insecurity are widespread and are devastating.  When there is food insecurity, farmers lose their livelihoods.  Parents spend hours every day trying to secure their family’s next meal.  Hungry children struggle to learn, and they suffer irreversible health consequences.  Already vulnerable populations are always, always hit hardest, and food insecurity also holds back broader economic growth and increases the risk of violent conflict and civil unrest.

This is a humanitarian crisis; it’s a health crisis.  It’s an economic and national security issue. And simply put, it’s a moral issue.  No child – no child on Earth should have to go hungry.  That’s why the U.S. – and a lot of this is through Ramin’s good work – is committed to the global fight against food insecurity both by addressing the root causes of hunger, and also by meeting the immediate needs of those suffering worldwide.

One of those root causes is the climate crisis.  Climate change has already had a significant and negative impact on global agricultural production, and its impact is only going to get worse.  We’re seeing rice fields drown in floods; we’re seeing other crops wither in drought.  We’ve seen shellfish die in more acidic oceans, and crop diseases are spreading to new regions.  We likely would not understand all of these problems as well as we do today without the work of Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, this year’s World Food Prize laureate.

As you’ve heard, Dr. Rosenzweig was one of the first scientists to document how climate change affects food production.  Thanks to her research, we can better predict how rising temperatures, extreme weather, and carbon dioxide will affect food production and quality.  And the work she’s done for NASA, for the United Nations, and the U.S. Congress has empowered lawmakers and also policymakers to make smarter decisions to protect agriculture against the changing climate.

For example, the U.S. recently launched an initiative with the UAE, with the United Arab Emirates, called the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate, or AIM for C.  Together, we’re investing $4 billion in climate-smart agriculture to develop crops that are more resilient to threats like pests and extreme weather.  And this will build upon Dr. Rosenzweig’s foundational research.  We’re grateful for her pioneering work, and we’re proud to be an ally in this fight, and we’re proud to be an ally with the World Food Prize Foundation.

The State Department has created an action plan.  It’s created an action plan to bring partners together to address food security that’s been caused by Putin’s war.  And this plan has five components.

First, we’re tackling immediate disruptions to the global food supply and mobilizing resources to meet urgent humanitarian needs.  President Biden announced recently that the U.S. is prepared to provide one billion dollars to this effort.

The second component is that we’re stepping efforts – stepping up our work to mitigate the global fertilizer shortage by collaborating with other countries to increase production.

Third, we continue to boost agricultural capacity and resilience through Feed the Future, which is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.  Feed the Future provides support to countries in order to improve local nutrition and make their agricultural systems more resilient.

Fourth, we’re working with our partners, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and many other multilateral organizations and development banks, to cushion the impact of rising food prices on poor people.  This includes strengthening social safety nets and scaling up cash transfers to the most vulnerable.

Finally, and fifth, we are pursuing all of these efforts with intensive diplomacy in our bilateral relationships and in international forums.  For example, in a couple of weeks, in two weeks, Secretary Blinken will host a ministerial in New York at the United Nations, a ministerial that we’re calling a global food security call to action.  This is going to bring together those countries most affected by food insecurity together with those best positioned to help.  And Secretary Blinken will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council that’s going to be focused on the current hunger crisis.

As we continue this work, we will be joined by a new member of our team, who I’d like to introduce right now, Dr. Cary Fowler.  Dr. Fowler has a resume that we can all dream of.  He’s our new Special Envoy for Global Food Security and he brings decades – decades – of experience to the State Department.  Dr. Fowler is a renowned agriculturalist and he’s going to be indispensable in our work and in our fight against global hunger.

It’s people like Dr. Rosenzweig, like Dr. Fowler, and each of you here today who make progress against food insecurity possible.  Thank you.  Thank you all for your dedication to this worthy fight.  And congratulations again to Dr. Rosenzweig for this well-deserved recognition.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  Thank you, Under Secretary Fernandez, Jose, for your remarks.  I’ll have to warm up those introductions next year.  (Laughter.)

Now I’d like to turn everyone’s attention to the video screens.  Secretary Tom Vilsack from USDA was unable to attend today, but he’s provided prerecorded remarks for this event.

SECRETARY VILSACK: (Via video remarks) It’s my honor to join guests from all around the world in celebrating the 2022 World Food Prize laureate, Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig.  Dr. Rosenzweig embodies the leadership, innovation, and experience necessary to face the intersecting challenges of global hunger and the climate crisis and to empower agriculture to be a meaningful solution to address these challenges.

A farmer first, her early influences in agricultural came from working the land and cultivating a love for food on the farm.  Through work that thus far has spanned four decades, she set out to discover what will happen to our food with the climate changing so rapidly and has been at the cutting edge of using modeling to predict outcomes.

She completed the first transdisciplinary model projections of the effects of climate change on food production in North America in 1985, becoming one of the first scientists to document that climate change was already impacting the cultivation of our food supply.  She started the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project to significantly improve agricultural models and scientific and technological capabilities for assessing the impacts of climate variability and change, as well as other driving forces on agriculture, food security, and poverty from local to global scales.  This type of interdisciplinary work has and will continue to aid USDA in making investments in programmatic decisions, particularly as we develop climate-smart agricultural approaches, build on a greater understanding of the impacts of climate change on our food systems.

In addition, her work on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change demonstrated a way forward on food and agricultural systems.  Among the key findings in the 2019 report she coauthored, we find optimism through the recognition that healthy and sustainable foods present major opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving health outcomes.

She also shines a bright light on the importance of agricultural training programs that inspire the next generation of climate, agriculture, and food leaders.

Training and retraining will become even more pertinent with ongoing climate challenges.  Changing crops, pests, rainfall amounts, and seasonal patterns means ag systems will need even greater and more innovative training and information-delivery models for farmers.

At USDA, we’re proud to partner with the World Food Prize Foundation on the Wallace-Carver Fellowship, which offers college students a valuable opportunity to learn firsthand from scientists and policymakers at research centers and field offices.

Just as Dr. Rosenzweig’s on-the-job experience, training, and education propelled her forward in her career, we are training and inspiring the next generation of leaders who will follow in her footsteps.  At the same time, we’ll continue to pursue climate-smart agricultural methods and innovative solutions to drive transformation in climate action, in no small part thanks to her groundbreaking work.

Congratulations to her on this incredible, successful career, which is culminated in this noble and well-deserved honor.  This generation and future generations thank you.  (Applause.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  I’d like to thank Secretary Vilsack for those remarks, and to all of our USDA colleagues who’ve – who joined in sharing that video today.  We’re – we work very closely with USDA here at the State Department on these global food security challenges.

And with that, let me welcome Dr. Cary Fowler, the Department of State’s new special envoy for global food security, to the podium.  (Applause.)

DR FOWLER:  Good morning.  It is a good morning, isn’t it?  Under Secretary Fernandez, President Stinson, Assistant Secretary Toloui, honored guests, it’s my honor to be with you today.  I’m particularly thrilled as today’s laureate announcement ceremony marks the first official public engagement in my new role as special envoy for global food security.  I very much appreciate the trust shown to me by President Biden and Secretary Blinken.

Agriculture is facing an historically unprecedented combination of challenges: the task of producing more food with less land, with less water, in the context of escalating conflict, and in the face of a rapidly changing climate.  Is agriculture ready for this?  Are our crops adapted?  Are our farming systems and institutions prepared?

Everyone looks to World Food Prize laureates both for hope and for solutions.  However, there is no quick fix or easy answer.  The recipients of this award have labored long and brought innovation and creativity to bear to answer these questions.  The World Food Prize recognizes and celebrates the grand masters of global food security.  These are men and women who are not only brilliant in their specific fields, but, like the best chess players, they are superb strategists.  They have recognized big problems, usually intractable and often invisible to others, and they’ve navigated past all the obstacles on the board to solve them.  Most laureates labor quietly and with little notice or fanfare until their names are read out in this building.  The announcement here at the State Department recognizes the importance of their work and their personal sacrifices, and it signals our nation’s profound gratitude.

Most importantly, though, I hope that this inspires the next generation of budding scientists and researchers to follow in their footsteps in striving for a world where food is truly available to all.  Congratulations to Dr. Rosenzweig and thank you.  (Applause.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  Dr. Fowler, thank you.  It’s a delight to have you in the building at this important time.

As we conclude today’s ceremony – and I’d like to thank José, Under Secretary Fernandez, President Stinson, Secretary Vilsack for their involvement today.  It should be clear to everyone who is here in person and participating virtually how seriously the United States Government takes this issue.  Through pioneering initiatives like the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, we’re working with governments, companies, researchers, and philanthropies around the world to drive investment toward our most pressing agriculture innovation priorities, and I’d encourage you all to join us in “AIMing for Climate,” and we’re grateful to the contributions you’re already making to these goals.

I also want to thank President Barbara Stinson and the entire World Food Prize Foundation for their tireless efforts to strengthen global food security and food systems and advance human development.  The State Department and our government partners look forward to participating in the October Borlaug Dialogue events in Des Moines and to continuing our efforts throughout the year to advance our common objectives to build sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems.

Thank you again for everyone – to everyone for joining us today, and once more, congratulations to our 2022 World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig.  (Applause.)


 Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project