Despite U.N. resistance, World Farmers’ Org. pushes ahead on farmer representation | TSLN.com

Despite U.N. resistance, World Farmers’ Org. pushes ahead on farmer representation

BUENOS AIRES — The United Nations appears to be resisting giving farmers a formal voice in its proceedings, particularly on climate change, but the World Farmers' Organization is continuing to press for that role and, in the meantime, is working on other issues important to farmers worldwide, Robert Carlson, the outgoing WFO president, said in a speech and interview here today.

"I don't think it will be speedy but it will be inexorable if we continue to press," Carlson told the general assembly of the WFO's efforts to convince the United Nations to set up a working group on climate change in agriculture and to put a farmer on the U.N. Committee on Global Food Security.

Officials in charge of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change have declined to establish a working group on climate change and agriculture, Carlson said in an interview because "civil society groups, particularly the big environmental groups don't want agriculture to be included. They view us as a big polluter."

That is wrong, Carlson said, because agriculture is one of the first industries to feel the impact of climate change and can also be one of the industries that can help reduce carbon emissions.

With assistance from the Danish Food & Agriculture Council, WFO will continue pressing the United Nations to listen to farmers more, but in the meantime has begun working with universities, other international organizations and major corporations on what it calls a "climate-smart" approach to get information to farmers on how to avoid the impact of climate change.

The work on climate change in world agriculture was evident at the workshop Tuesday entitled "More Crop Per Drop."

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Hayden Montgomery, the New Zealand ambassador to Argentina, and the former New Zealand negotiator on climate change, said he had been "shocked at the lack of discussion on agriculture" when he attend his first climate change negotiations in 2006.

"The difficulty in advancing agriculture [in the climate change debate] reflects the sensitivity about agriculture around the world," Montgomery said. But with negotiations under way for a treaty that would go into effect in 2020, "it has to be addressed before then."

One of the important efforts to deal with the issue is the Global Agricultural Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses, which was set up in 2009 on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting in Copenhagen. The alliance, whose secretariat is located in New Zealand, aims "to find ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions, according to its website.

Forty member countries have joined the alliance, and WFO is one of its partners.

Robert Stefanski, former USDA crop weather analyst who is now chief of agricultural meteorology for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, said his organization's job is to provide weather information to help farmers make better decisions, but that he needs more input from farmers on what they need.

He added that one of WMO's most important goals is to prove that better weather forecasting has economic benefits that are worth governments investing in modern weather stations.

Daniel Caldiz, the principal scientist in Argentina for McCain Foods Limited, a Canadian-based potato company with operations in many countries, made the case that the white potato is one of the most efficient of crops in its use of water but also said that McCain is working with its 3,000 farmer suppliers around the world to increase water efficiency and increase production.

Caldiz, who noted that almost everyone in the world who eats French fries eats McCain products at some point, said that despite its worldwide efforts, "What one company does is not enough. We need macro, more global policies."

–The Hagstrom Report