As a senior advisor in the U.S. Department of State, I understand how what happens overseas can affect Americans. That's why my colleagues and I in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs are dedicated to working around the world promoting economic growth, opportunity, and jobs - and always sharing our values. That's why I'm in Des Moines, Iowa this week and honored to be participating in the 2017 World Food Prize ceremony today recognizing Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, for his innovative work on policy and financial reform in agriculture. The prize is known as the foremost international honor recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. This prize and the work of Dr. Adesina remind each of us of the global nature of agriculture today and what that means for U.S. farmers.
Iowa, which hosts the ceremony, is a good example of such trade and innovation. Exports from Iowa helped contribute to the $2.21 trillion of U.S. goods and services exports in 2016. Processed foods and agricultural products are Iowa’s first and fourth largest exports, respectively, and over 100,000 jobs were supported by exports from Iowa. This is why my colleagues and I are so committed to the work we do. We know that ensuring the openness of international markets to U.S. products translates into real economic opportunities for Americans.
You may be aware that in the United States, over 90 percent of corn and soybeans are produced using biotechnology. Biotechnology has many advantages and has, on average over the past 20 years, increased crop yields globally by 22 percent, reduced total chemical pesticide use by 37 percent, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent. Unfortunately, however, the use of biotechnology faces barriers in many countries. A lack of scientific infrastructure, confusion around how to perform a science-based risk assessment, political imperatives, and personal beliefs continue to hamper innovative approaches like biotechnology. Patchworks of regulations and roadblocks in approvals of biotech products get in the way of both local farmers and U.S. farmers whose exports could feed those who need it most.
That's why we fight to remove those barriers and roadblocks. That's why at our Embassies all around the world we advocate for science-based and data-driven policies that allow innovation to thrive. We encourage fair trade, an honest discussion of the facts, and opportunities for U.S. producers.
In Iowa and across the nation, each of our farmers is rightfully proud of his or her harvest, and we are proud to help them get that harvest to international markets. Together we can create jobs and economic growth here at home, and improve the lives of billions around the world.
About the Author: Peter Haas is the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Policy and Negotiations in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.