We’ve stepped it up on your behalf over the last month in an effort to build confidence that industrial hemp is real, and that hemp can address both domestic and international agricultural challenges facing farmers and supply chains on food, feed, fuel, and climate. We’ve worked to raise awareness within global governmental organizations charged with advancing nature-based solutions, organizations you would think already have industrial hemp on their radar. Be sure to read this entire report…
Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO’s) Global Food Summit
I was invited in my NHA and private sector capacity to participate in the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO’s) Global Food Summit. Themed Youth Action, Science & Innovation and Investment, this event was organized to address the challenges facing the world to feed its inhabitants while investing in solutions for the future. An event organized on the same scale as last month’s UN General Assembly, FAO brought together individuals, non-government organizations, heads of state, Ministers of AG, their ambassadors, and officials for 10 days of meetings addressing the agricultural challenges confronting our planet.
The venue, FAO Headquarters, located at Viale delle Terme di Caracalla on the fringe of ancient Rome was originally built under the Fascist government of Italy in the 1930s to be the seat of the Ministry of Italian Africa. It is fitting to see that the repurposed building is working for good. The building’s 4,000 employees (about 1/3 of FAO employees) work daily to bring food and feed security solutions to the world, addressing hydrology, soil, nutrition, animal health, climate, and investment.
The Summit agenda provided opportunities to hear the youth of the world present solutions they are bringing to the forefront on the most pressing AG issues. Their agenda highlighted the need to attract young farmers by developing technologies and educational platforms that not only would make next-generation farming rewarding but free from the risks facing farmers today. It was great to see partnerships being developed with companies like Nestle, who are committed to working with FAO to develop the new generation of global farmers.
Separate plenary sessions ran in parallel, allowing nations to present themselves to the attendees, highlighting the advancements they were hoping might attract investment in their agricultural sectors and industries. FAO officials, regional directors, and representatives of UN Agencies attended many of the sessions, such as IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), whose President, Alvaro Lario, I met the previous week in Washington, DC. All were approachable during breaks, and I did my best to target those whom I believed were most important to advancing hemp education and awareness, here at home and abroad.
I made good use of my hours to educate FAO directors on the benefits of hemp. It was apparent many were hearing about hemp’s benefits for the very first time. Although a sad reality, subsequent meetings proved that. Because the United States drew a red line on hemp in the 1940s, many nations, fearing the loss of U.S. financial support for their other initiatives, moved quickly away from hemp, fearful of even coming near that very hard red line. Given that the U.S. taxpayer contributes $11 billion annually to the United Nations, including hundreds of millions to FAO’s initiatives under the UN Economic and Social Councils, I believe they have chosen to abide by the U.S. War on Drugs and stayed clear of hemp, even though many knew of its benefits.
That is all about to change.
The highlight of my meetings came during an off-site luncheon with FAO-IAFN SME Accelerator leaders, who are an amazing group of women championing farming and entrepreneurship in their African nations. While listening to them tell of their work, I was tapped on the shoulder by Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen, Independent Chairperson of the Council, the most senior official within FAO! He is elected to his post by the Members of FAO. He had heard I was attending the Summit from the event organizers and the various FAO officials that I had been meeting with. He asked if I could find time to meet with him at his office. It was the most rewarding encounter over my 10 years working to advance the hemp industry.
Dr. Hoogeveen will become hemp’s new global champion. He had some exposure to hemp, given that he previously served as Ambassador / Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN Organizations for Food and Agriculture. Before that, he was the Director General for Agriculture and Nature Management at the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs. As such, Dr. Hoogeveen was the most senior civil servant to lead the agendas for agriculture, agribusiness, food safety, food security, veterinary and plant health, and international affairs—including the European Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy—international food security, the FAO and other UN affairs, trade liberalization (WTO), market access and nature/biodiversity management.
We met for over an hour, and he advised that this was just the “appetizer.” He shared several initiatives his office is moving forward on, one that proposes a “Global system for carbon farming: A holistic climate change solution,” a place where hemp could be one of, if not the, leading commodity used to achieve these goals.
I have followed up my meeting with a note to Dr. Hoogeveen. Perhaps most important, I advised “I believe that you have the ability to address the biggest global barriers to the adoption of industrial hemp as a climate-smart commodity; barriers that once removed will unlock the tremendous value of this crop, and unlock its potential to mitigate our combined global food, housing, energy, water, job and climate crises.”
I have now been invited and am considering attending COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 7-14, where world leaders will gather. We are exploring what meetings and roles we can confirm and undertake on behalf of the industry, advancing the discussions started at both UNGA and FAO.
NHA is proud to represent you in these endeavors!
Geoff Whaling – Chair of the National Hemp Association