The Waters family farm in Orrick, Mo. had a few unusual guests last week when dozens of African ministers came to learn about their corn, soybean and wheat farm. To embrace the 9th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum’s theme, “New Strategies for a Changing World,” the organizers made some innovative changes, splitting the forum between Washington DC and Kansas City, Mo. Why Kansas City?
As a major agricultural hub, Kansas City was ideal for bringing American and African agribusinesses and investors together. It also took the forum beyond policy discussions and into the field, literally. It was the perfect place to demonstrate the close relationship between American farmers and “the people’s department,” as USDA was originally named by Abraham Lincoln.
Tom and Karla Waters explained how they plant, harvest, store, and sell crops in their seventh generation farm operation. USDA Farm Service Agency’s county director and an extension agent discussed how the Department supports smallholder farmers and large scale operations such as the Waters’ 5,000 acres through research and training at land-grant universities, and marketing and credit programs. In the Foreign Agricultural Service, I oversee capacity building and development programs, many in Africa. I talked about how our technical assistance programs help give farmers in Africa the same knowledge and tools available to farmers in the United States, through partnerships and coordination with farm groups, governments, and other public and private organizations.
The ministers and delegates asked questions about purchasing seeds, planting cycles, irrigation, value-added end products, how prices are determined, and how to make a profit. On the policy side, they gained valuable insight about the Farm Service Agency’s network of service centers where farm loan managers, rural development officers, and extension agents serve the agricultural needs of communities throughout the United States. By seeing the producer-government relationship in action at the farm, I hope the ministers and delegates will take some new ideas and practices to use back home.
To see more photos of the farm visit and the rest of the Kansas City forum, visit USDA’s Flickr site. For more information about AGOA’s background and objectives, visit America.gov.
Read our other blog, “African Ministers and Companies Come to Kansas City to Do Business“.