Clinton Global Initiative: Hillary Clinton on Food Security

I have had the opportunity to see a lot of really powerful speakers at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting. Talk about internalized patriarchy: I was most excited to see Presidents Obama and Clinton speak, and though I was excited to see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she was not at the top of my list. I have to tell you all, I was most personally affected by Secretary Clinton’s words. Our politics differ in a number of ways, but seeing her speak in person her morally motivated passion is undeniable. As she talked about fundamentally shifting our approach to hunger I got chills and even teared up a little. I have heard Secretary Clinton be accused of acting only out of a desire for power probably more than anyone else in politics. I think this stems partly from an insidious assumption that for a woman to be successful she must lose part of her humanity, which is supposed to be focused on nurturing others.
In his introduction of Secretary Clinton, President Clinton said that in the second half of 20th century the U.S. government gave up on helping those in poverty feed themselves. The thinking became that those with food would just give some to others. “This persisted through Democratic and Republican administrations, including my own. We were all wrong.” By focusing on aid in situations of crisis instead of empowering small farmers and creating structures for them to sell their crops locally, “We forgot the dignity element of being able to feed yourself.”


Picture a farmer. Who do you see? More internalized (U.S.-centric, racially privileged) patriarchy: my image was a middle aged white man in the U.S. farm belt. Secretary Clinton shifted this picture forever with one simple but emphatically stated word: “She.”
The majority of the world’s farmers, including the majority of small farmers, are women. Secretary Clinton asked us to, “consider the daily life of the typical small farmer… She works all day in a field, sometimes with a baby strapped on her back. If she’s lucky drought, blight, and pests don’t destroy her crop and she has enough to feed her family and maybe sell a little.” The small farmer has extra food to sell. Hungry people want to buy it, but can’t afford to. “This simple transaction can’t take place because of complex forces out of their control.”
Secretary Clinton said empowering small farmers to sell their food, “will set off a domino effect,” changing the conditions in regions, countries, and the world. We must shift away from an aid framing, though, and focus on empowerment. Secretary Clinton implied this requires questioning assumptions about U.S. superiority: “Few know better the complex issues that hinder a country’s food supply than those who live there.”
Secretary Clinton recognized this re-framing of food security, which her State Department and the Obama administration plan to act aggressively on, “Will no doubt spark enormous debates around the world and a lot in our own country.” I imagine I will disagree with plenty of how it plays out – the seeds for this were evident in some of her remarks. But I am excited about and inspired by the approach.

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13 Comments

  1. MarySophia
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I met the Clintons a couple of years ago, at an early campaign event. She was charming and heartfelt and seemed genuinely enthused to be speaking with and to us.

  2. JamesXL
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Porkulus strikes again!
    For the last time people, it’s not that there’s not enough food. We just suck at doling it out since the infrastructure is pretty much the same be it handouts of food or welfare checks.
    Subsidizing these small farmers is a waste of money. They will be bought out by agribusiness sooner or later, so the net effect will be improving the quality of capital acquisitions by Big Agri. And of course, like any corporate model, they rely on the perpetual growth of the company to generate profit- at least long enough on paper for the cart-drivers to cash in their bonuses and stock options.
    Ultimate net effect- tax dollars go into pockets of well-connected corporate higher-ups. Transfer of wealth. Duh.
    A better idea would be to revamp the food distribution infrastructure. But that would just be socialism now wouldn’t it? Government intervention? Sacrilege!

  3. Quinc
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    The point of such initiatives is not to create more food, but rather to empower the small farmers (just like the OP said if you actually read it). To say they’ll just get bought out is at a minimum overly pessimistic. If they had capital of their own, and avenues to sell their product, they would be much better at competing and fending off big agri. Also, in many third world countries there effectively is no big agri, or any big business at all. Their presence would be an improvement, excluding of course foreign big business who disrupts the market with cheap imports and funnels capital back out of the country’s borders.

  4. JamesXL
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    As long as rely on easily debased fiat bills based on a centralized bank, local economies of scale aren’t going to do well.
    As far as 3rd world countries go, the World Bank and IMF will “take care” of them.

  5. StephenMoore
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    Way to miss the point, JamesXL. Guess you must have missed reading this part of Jos’s post:
    Picture a farmer. Who do you see? More internalized (U.S.-centric, racially privileged) patriarchy: my image was a middle aged white man in the U.S. farm belt. Secretary Clinton shifted this picture forever with one simple but emphatically stated word: “She.”
    The majority of the world’s farmers, including the majority of small farmers, are women.

  6. JamesXL
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    “Secretary Clinton said empowering small farmers to sell their food, “will set off a domino effect,” changing the conditions in regions, countries, and the world.”
    I’m addressing another part of this article.
    While it’s nice to have women in the limelight, there’s something wrong with the overall message.

  7. StephenMoore
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Secretary Clinton implied this requires questioning assumptions about U.S. superiority
    Yeah, good luck with that. /snark from a non-Usonian.
    So much of Usonian identity is premised on the assumption of US superiority that to question it, let alone change what Usonian identity is, is going to be fraught with dificulty. I am glad that a person in the position and with the power that Sec. Clinton has is asking the question. It is an issue that needs to be explored by the US population.

  8. StephenMoore
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Rereading Jos’s post and your comment in reply, I’m not sure what part of the article you’re focusing on. Your comment reads as though you are talking about small-holdings in the US, whereas the OP is talking about Sec. Clinton’s comments about non-US, (Third World) agriculture. If I have misread your comment, my apologies, but I just can’t see how it relates to the OP.

  9. JamesXL
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    1.”In his introduction of Secretary Clinton, President Clinton said that in the second half of 20th century the U.S. government gave up on helping those in poverty feed themselves. The thinking became that those with food would just give some to others.”This persisted through Democratic and Republican administrations, including my own. We were all wrong.” By focusing on aid in situations of crisis instead of empowering small farmers and creating structures for them to sell their crops locally, “We forgot the dignity element of being able to feed yourself.”
    I addressed this with my assertion that it’s poor infrastructure that leads to inefficient food distribution. Empowering small farmers isn’t the answer, however, and I go on to explain that.
    2. “Picture a farmer. Who do you see? More internalized (U.S.-centric, racially privileged) patriarchy: my image was a middle aged white man in the U.S. farm belt. Secretary Clinton shifted this picture forever with one simple but emphatically stated word: “She.”"
    That’s nice. Good to see some women take the spotlight. However, the overall message is still problematic as not all land is arable, and that poor handling of food distribution is a much bigger problem than people not being able to grow the food themselves.
    3. “By focusing on aid in situations of crisis instead of empowering small farmers and creating structures for them to sell their crops locally, “We forgot the dignity element of being able to feed yourself.”"
    This likely won’t work in the US due to a debased fiat currency that revolves around a centralized banking system. Perhaps if these small farmers organized local currencies… hmm…
    As for the third world country farmers, the idea being presented is that aid should be used to empower small farmers. Aid in the form of… World Bank loans? And what do those loans do? They force 3rd world countries into letting corporatism in. Then the corporate infrastructure will destroy these small farmers that were being subsidized.

  10. i_muse
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Usonioan, are you kidding me? We are not comic book villains, we are a nation of individuals that are also part of a group/nationality. Hatred, name calling and bigotry, aimed at anyone, isn’t going to serve your cause.
    I love what Hillary Clinton said and appreciate her presence in the world and as Secretary of State for the nation I live in.
    I think she’ll be able to do even more when she is working from the private sector, post political career.
    I have immense gratitude for her work. I’m also sorry that she had to be an example of how far we haven’t come. She experienced more sexism than even I was expecting (and I’m a jaded old feminist) during the campaign and even now as a female leader, the sexist BS continues. Of course she handles it all well.

  11. kpc
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Our country’s change in dealing with world hunger is truly commendable. One question I have is whether Secretary of State Clinton gave any credit to Senators Lugar and Casey who wrote the legislation to make this change and who, with Senator Kerry passed it through Congress.
    The fact is that the bill that made this change was introduced by Lugar and Casey on February 5, 2009. Hillary Clinton’s confirmation as Secretary of State was January 13, 2009 and she was sworn in on January on January 21, 2009. The fact is that she likely had nothing to do with initiating this change. (The hearing for the bill was on March 24 and there was no one on the panel from the state department. http://foreign.senate.gov/hearings/2009/hrg090324a.html
    I realize that Clinton, as Secretary of State, is charged with setting up and running US programs, but I hope that she gave some of the credit to people who worked to make this US policy.

  12. KingofthePaupers
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    JamesXL replied: Perhaps if these small farmers organized local
    currencies… hmm…
    Jct: That’s what happened when the Agentine economy crashed in
    2001, people started accepting farmers’ IOUs for tons of grain
    delivered to the dock. Big companies had to take them or take
    nothing!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtMIz6XgjMI is my video Reuters:
    Ford, GM take Argentina farmers’ grain bucks
    Sure, a grain-based currency worked fine but the best is still a
    time-based currency. Not everyone has grain to pledge but every pauper has plenty of time.

  13. KingofthePaupers
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    JamesXL replied: Perhaps if these small farmers organized local
    currencies… hmm…
    Jct: That’s what happened when the Agentine economy crashed in
    2001, people started accepting farmers’ IOUs for tons of grain
    delivered to the dock. Big companies had to take them or take
    nothing!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtMIz6XgjMI is my video Reuters:
    Ford, GM take Argentina farmers’ grain bucks
    Sure, a grain-based currency worked fine but the best is still a time-based currency. Not everyone has grain to pledge but every pauper has plenty of time.

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