Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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Session Topics

Educating People of Faith: Personal Choices, Agricultural Sustainability and
the 21st Century Challenge of World Hunger

Session Overviews:

Paul Faeth, Global Food Demand and U.S. Agriculture

As world population increases, demands for food and energy will increasingly be competitive, with water resources as the critical constraint for both.  The increasing global population is not, however, the only source of increased competitive demands for water. Changes in diet accompanying the growth of a global middle class are another important factor. Climate change is another constraint, affecting where crops can be grown. As water resources dwindle, agricultural trade in commodities will gain increased significance as transfers of “virtual water.”

Production of biofuels has competed with cropland for food production and with water resources as well, with unexpected consequences, including increased political instability in poor countries. Globally, agriculture is also a major source of greenhouse gases contributing to accelerated climate change as forests are converted to cropland, fossil fuels are converted to fertilizer, and increased livestock production produces increased waste.

How these competitive demands are addressed and mitigated will be a challenge for the United States and for the planet. The session will review the global sensitivity of agriculture to climate change, the potential impacts on food production and trade in Virginia and nationally. As an illustration of one strategy for mitigating and managing change, the session will review water quality challenges in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the solutions that are being developed to address those challenges.

Charles “Chip” Jones, Preserving Virginia Farmland

Without local farmland, there can be no local food. Preserving local farmland protects open space, makes naturally ripened seasonal produce available for people at all income levels, and promotes agricultural sustainability. The Northern Neck Land Conservancy is one of a number of organizations in the Commonwealth with a mission to protect farmland and other open space.

How these organizations operate and the state laws and estate planning tools that are available to make farmland protection feasible are important resources, but persons not involved in farming also have a role as supporters and advocates for protection of farmland and other open space. This session will provide an overview of the mission and roles of organizations protecting farmland and other open space and identify means for persons not involved in farming to help promote their mission.

Dennis Treacy, Meeting the Rising Global Demand for Animal Protein: The Need for Sustainable Alternatives to Pastoral Livestock Production

Modern food systems are more successful than ever in producing a reliable supply of food. However, recent studies indicate that global food production will need to double in order to keep up with the increasing demands of a growing population, expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Returning to production methods of years past (small scale, outdoor agriculture), while attractive to some, is not a feasible and sustainable means for meeting the present and future demand for animal protein.

While meeting the demand is important, producing food in a way that cares for the environment, the animals, and those who produce the food is equally important. With limited resources of forest, cropland, and water, sustainably intensifying our agricultural systems is essential.  Properly operating large scale livestock feeding operations that leverage capital and expertise may become the primary means to protect these values while ensuring that a population of 9 billion can be adequately fed.

This session will focus on what the world’s largest pork producer and processor is doing to face these sustainability challenges as it tackles the challenge of helping feed the world in a responsible and affordable way.

Elizabeth Ransom, The Challenge of World Hunger: Opportunities and Strategies for Sustainable 21st Century Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa

African agriculture has historically been comprised of many small producers, weak infrastructure, poor access to capital, and trade barriers further limiting opportunities for development of markets. Other constraints include poor quality of seed, a continuing deterioration of cropland, and diminishing water resources.  These challenges are particularly daunting in Sub-Saharan Africa as its population is projected to increase by 120 percent over the next 40 years and currently suffers from periodic famine and chronic food insecurity.

If means for meeting these challenges are to be found, they will involve, among other things, advances in agricultural technologies and farming practices that are specifically tailored to the needs of African agriculturalists.  This session will review some of the opportunities for mobilizing technologies, including agricultural biotechnologies, to address agricultural challenges in Africa, in addition to calling attention to the social, cultural, and political issues that must be engaged to foster sustainable agriculture in the region.