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Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony

Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  Good morning, everyone.  Good morning.  Secretary Blinken, Secretary Vilsack, Ambassador Branstad, and distinguished guests, my name is Ramin Toloui, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs here at the State Department.  And it’s a pleasure to welcome you to the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony.

For more than 30 years, the World Food Prize has recognized individuals who advance the cause of food security and nutrition around the world, and the State Department’s collaboration with the World Food Prize goes back more than 20 years, actually to one of my predecessors and fellow Iowan Al Larson.

And in 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell participated in this announcement ceremony.  And the reason is the same as the reason that the Nobel Committee awarded Norman Borlaug the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970: food security is essential to global welfare, security, and peace, and elevating and celebrating the individuals whose scholarship, leadership, and activism advance the cause of global food security benefits us all – Americans and people around the world.

And it’s not about just the prize itself.  Concurrent with the award ceremony in October, Des Moines also hosts the Borlaug Dialogue, which brings together scholars and practitioners for panels and seminars dedicated to the various critical food security issues the world faces today.

At last year’s dialogue, it was a particular delight for me to meet the USDA Borlaug Fellows.  These are young scholars from around the world who are selected to come to the United States and spend time at U.S. universities around our country on research collaborations, and so I met scholars from Egypt, Philippines, Tunisia, Algeria.  And what was so exhilarating was getting to hear their passion for the problems that they were working on that came from their experiences in their local communities.

And the idea that they would come to the United States, spend time at research organizations, and then take back to their communities the knowledge that can help solve the problems that are important to their lives was really what it was – what this collaboration – what the Borlaug Dialogue was all about.  It’s not just the “what”; it’s the “how” through these global partnerships, and that’s something that Norman Borlaug believed in very deeply.

On a personal note, as a native of Iowa City and fourth generation Iowan myself, it was rewarding to see the excitement of these young scholars and welcome them to my home state.

So with that, let’s get down to it.  Now, to introduce the new World Food Prize Foundation President and Former U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, I welcome World Food Prize Foundation COO Mashal Husain to the stage.  (Applause.)

MS HUSAIN:  Thank you Assistant Secretary Toloui for your very gracious introduction.  To all our guests here this morning, khushamdeed.   This is the manner in which friends are greeted in my country of heritage, Pakistan.  Dr. Norman Borlaug often heard this phrase of welcome from farmers in the villages of Punjab, working to increase food production and prevent famine across South Asia.  Khushamdeed to all of you and welcome to the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement.  (Applause.)

My own lifelong cross-cultural journey has taken me from my native Pakistan to living in Tanzania, the Philippines, and in Thailand and has ultimately brought me to the place from which Dr. Borlaug’s “Green Revolution” emanated, Iowa, where I found my purpose at the World Food Prize.

Secretary Blinken, on behalf of our president, Ambassador Terry Branstad, Janis Ruan, and the entire Ruan family, as well as our board chair Paul Schickler, and our counsel of advisors, I want to thank you and your exceptional State Department staff for your invaluable collaboration.

This special gathering continues the tradition that began in 2004, when the first laureate announcement was held in partnership with the State Department.  As a special surprise that year for Dr. Borlaug, who had just celebrated his 90th birthday, the State Department presented a cake with 90 candles.  (Laughter.)  He blew out the candles and made a wish.  When asked what he wished for, he replied that this ceremony could take place with the State Department every year.  (Laughter.)  So Mr. Secretary, today, you are still making Dr. Borlaug’s wish come true.  (Laughter.)  I know Julie Borlaug, his granddaughter who is here, is especially grateful to you and to Secretary Vilsack for your instrumental roles in carrying forward his legacy and this wonderful tradition.

The World Food Prize promotes Dr. Borlaug’s legacy of global peace through agriculture and champions the values that drive us to create a better world.  We do so by holding our annual Borlaug Dialogue addressing critical and cutting-edge conversations in food security.  We do so by inspiring our next generation of agricultural innovators and by awarding our World Food Prize.

Since 1987, 52 laureates from 21 countries and the United Nations have been recognized for their achievements in confronting hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.  Now to reveal our 53rd World Food Prize laureate, it is my great honor to introduce the president of the World Food Prize, former U.S. ambassador to China, and the longest-serving governor in the history of the United States, Ambassador Terry Branstad.  (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR BRANSTAD:  Thank you, Mashal, for that very kind introduction.  Thank you to Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, for joining us for this very important celebration.

We are grateful to all of you for the strong partnership between the World Food Prize Foundation, the State Department, and the Department of Agriculture.  This laureate announcement is a great legacy of collaboration which dates back nearly 20 years.  Thank you also to all the members of the Iowa congressional delegation, many of which are here with us today, to support. Your support is also very much appreciated.  I would especially like to thank the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Jay Byers, who’s joined us today along with his team.  This is the most Iowans that I’ve seen in Washington, D.C. – (laughter and applause) – the most Iowans in Washington, D.C. since we dedicated the statue of Norman Borlaug in Statuary Hall in 2014 on his 100th birthday.  (Applause.)

I am thrilled to be attending my first laureate announcement and I’m honored to be here with all of you.  I’ve always been a strong supporter and advocate for the World Food Prize Foundation and served as governor when Dr. Borlaug partnered with Iowa businessman and philanthropist John Ruan, Sr. to move the World Food Prize to Des Moines.  There wouldn’t be a World Food Prize today if it were not for the ongoing commitment and vision of the Ruan family.  We are very grateful for their dedication to this important work.

Ambassador Quinn is also with us today in the front row.  He is responsible for taking the World Food Prize Foundation to the very successful progress it’s made over the last 25 years.  Ambassador Quinn, thank you.  (Applause.)

All of us Iowans are proud of our native son, Norman Borlaug.  Dr. Borlaug and I are both of Norwegian heritage, and we share roots on farms in northern Iowa.  In fact, Dr. Borlaug grew up on a farm in Howard County, and I grew up on a farm just two counties away in Winnebago County.  Dr. Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his lifetime of work to feed a hungry world.  He is the guiding light behind the World Food Prize, which honors significant achievements in improving the world’s food supply.  Dr. Borlaug’s granddaughter, Julie, is here with us today.  Julie, thank you for continuing your grandfather’s legacy.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, who is the 2009 laureate, for his service as chair of the independent group of experts who select the World Food Prize laureates.

Today, I have the honor of announcing the 2023 World Food Prize laureate.   Our 53rd laureate has built a model of work directly with farmers to restore farmland and food security after devastating conflict.  Through this work, she has shown more than a million people living in war-torn regions a way forward to restoring peace and prosperity through agriculture.

Here’s how it works.  First she partners with demining organizations to clear land mines.  Then she works with farmers to replant fields with modern agriculture practices.  Our laureate has worked in nine countries to confront the daunting challenge of rebuilding food systems and livelihoods after conflict.  She started by partnering with wineries in her home state of California to raise funds to remove land mines in Croatia and replant vineyards and orchards.  Then she took this model to Afghanistan.  After clearing land mines there, she helped farmers – including more than 5,000 women – produce high-quality crops.  She built agriculture value chains and provided market support and development.

Her organization is one of the few U.S. non-profits that’s still operating in Afghanistan.  In Vietnam, she partnered with the State Department and with others to clear unexploded bombs, making it possible to plant more than 1.6 million black pepper trees.  Her work shows the world the vital role agriculture must have in the resilient recovery from conflict and restoration and peace.

For making her mission to turn mines to vines, I am so pleased to announce that the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate is Heidi Kühn.  (Applause.)

Heidi Kühn is the founder and CEO of the non-profit Roots of Peace.  We are pleased to have here with us her husband Gary and one of her four children, her son Tucker.  Thank you to the Kühn family.  (Applause.)

Yeah, stand up.  (Laughter.)  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Today, Heidi is actually in Azerbaijan.  As we speak, she’s working in Azerbaijan to remove land mines – which is her Mother’s Day tradition.  (Laughter.)

I want to also welcome Ambassador Ibrahim from Azerbaijan, who I think is also here.  Ambassador, thank you.  (Applause.)  An honor to have you and many other ambassadors here.

It will be our honor to present the World Food Prize at the beautiful Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on October 26th.  (Applause.)  This will culminate the event of the 2023 International Borlaug Dialogue from October 24th through the 26th, which will be held in person as well as virtually.  Our theme this year is “Harnessing Change.”

Again, I want to say thanks to all of you for coming today.  I hope to see you all in Des Moines in October – (laughter) – as we celebrate our 2023 laureate.  Again, thank you for being here, and congratulations to Heidi Kühn as our new laureate.  (Applause.)

MR FOWLER:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning.

MR FOWLER:  I’m Cary Fowler.  I’m the Special Envoy for Global Food Security, and I feel like I should say I’m not from Iowa.  I think I’m the first one.  (Laughter.)  The office of secretary of state is not where you would expect to find a farmer sitting behind the desk.  And indeed, I – not sure that there has been one sitting behind that desk since the first secretary of state, who was Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson famously said that the greatest service that can be rendered to any country is to add a new crop to its cultivation.  Norman Borlaug, the inspiration for the World Food Prize, effectively did that by giving new life and added productivity to one of the world’s oldest staple crops: wheat.

Several weeks ago, our next speaker appeared before a Senate committee, and among other things – after all, it was, I think, a hearing that lasted several hours – mentioned the importance of adapting crops and the importance of soil fertility to food security.  I can imagine that both Thomas Jefferson and Norman Borlaug would have approved.

In our community, Mr. Secretary, it’s a high honor to be mentioned in the same sentence with Thomas Jefferson and Norman Borlaug, but that honor belongs to you.  It belongs to you for the priority that you’ve given to combatting food insecurity, the guiding spirit behind the World Food Prize.

So it’s my privilege to introduce my boss and our Secretary of State, Antony Blinken to the podium.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you very, very much.  Welcome to Iowa Day.  (Laughter.)  This is a shameless promotion for the state.  (Laughter.)  And I’m glad that Cary mentioned that he’s not from Iowa because I was going to ask: Is there anyone here who is not from Iowa?  (Laughter.)  And it turns out that apparently, Cary, you and I are probably the only people who are not, although maybe we should do a little bit of digging into the birth records to find out.  (Laughter.)

But thank you, my friend, for that truly lovely introduction, humbling introduction.  To you, to Under Secretary Jose Fernandez, Assistant Secretary Toloui, to the entire team in our Office of Agricultural Policy, thank you for what you’re doing every single day to fight global hunger.

And it’s particularly inspiring to be here with many of the people who are leading what is a whole-of-government mission to advance our commitment to food security.  Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, USAID Assistant Administrator Dina Esposito, and many of members of Congress who are with us today, it’s wonderful to have you here, wonderful to have your partnership in this absolutely essential – it’s hard to think of a more essential – effort that we make around the world.

And Ambassador Branstad – maybe I should say governor because once a governor, always a governor, especially if you happen to the longest-serving governor in the history of the United States.  And Secretary Vilsack, Governor Vilsack, the longest-serving Democratic governor in the State of Iowa.  (Laughter and applause.)

But Terry, thank you to you, to everyone at the World Food Prize Foundation for the absolutely vital work that you’re doing to inspire action and support outstanding individuals who are improving global food security, including, of course, this year’s remarkable laureate, Heidi Kühn.

It’s wonderful that members of her family are here.  I thought how inspiring that someone who has just won one of the most significant awards any of us can give can’t be here.  Because what is she doing?  She’s actually doing her work in the field, helping to remove landmines in Azerbaijan.  I think that in and of itself is an extraordinary tribute to Heidi and the work that she does.  (Applause.)

So as you’ve heard, for more than 25 years, Heidi has led a movement to remove landmines from former conflict zones and plant crops in their place – turning fields of death into gardens of life.

In total, by harnessing the collective power of governments, businesses, international organizations, Heidi’s non-profit, Roots of Peace, has, as you’ve heard, removed over 100,000 landmines.   And not just removed them – this is what’s so extraordinarily powerful – restored the land that is now being used by over a million farmers across nine countries, helping to feed people and create economic opportunity for so many.

Now, we know that today conflict remains the largest single driver of food insecurity.  The ten worst food crises in the world have all been caused or worsened by conflict.  Seventy percent of the hungriest people in the world live in regions that are affected by war and by violence.  And, often, even when the violence ends, hunger remains.

Over the last year, millions more have been affected by conflict beyond their borders, as the Kremlin has tried to leverage food as a weapon in its aggression against Ukraine.

Food insecurity, of course, is also being worsened by other intersecting challenges – COVID‑19 and its disruption of global food supply chains and the climate crisis that’s killing crops around the world.  Hundreds of millions of people face food insecurity across our planet.

So for me, for the State Department, this is of course first and foremost a human issue, but it’s also a national security issue, as well as an economic issue.  In the United States, we are deeply committed to addressing it on all of these fronts.

We’ve long been the largest single donor of global food assistance, something that I’m immensely proud of.  Last year, we contributed $13.5 billion to these efforts – when we had the Russian aggression exacerbate the problem, we doubled down on what we were doing.  We provide more than 40 percent of the World Food Programme’s budget every year.

We’re also working to sustain the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has facilitated the delivery of more than 29 million metric tons of food from Ukraine to the global market since July.  Now, this initiative never should have been necessary in the first place.  It never should have been necessary because Russia should not have invaded Ukraine.  It never should have been necessary because once Russia invaded Ukraine, it shouldn’t have gotten into the business of blockading Ukraine’s ports and preventing food from going around the world to people who desperately need it.  Nonetheless, it was necessary.

The United Nations, Türkiye did an extraordinary job in helping to set it up.  But the fact that it succeeded over the last months in getting so much grain to so many places around the world is a very powerful thing.  This includes eight million tons of wheat.  That’s the equivalent of roughly 16 billion loaves of bread, most of which has gone to low-income countries, including under the auspices of the World Food Programme.

Just as we’re focused on the acute humanitarian challenge of hunger, we’re also addressing long-term food insecurity – including by working closely with partners across the globe.  Because none of us can solve this complex problem alone, and also because what I’ve heard time and again, especially from engaging with my counterparts around the world – foreign ministers from Africa and other places – is again and again:  Yes, we need, we’re grateful for emergency assistance, but what we most want is the ability to sustain the production for ourselves.  And so the more that we can contribute to that, the more that we can help countries build resilient, sustaining productive capacity, that really is the objective.

We’ve heard from partners again and again:  Emergency food aid cannot be the only solution. And so we are investing in sustainable, long-term food production.

Last May, we helped launch the Roadmap for Global Food Security, which calls on countries to fight hunger for generations to come – not just next month, not just next year, but for generations to come.  Today, more than 100 countries have signed on and pledged to take swift, concrete steps toward building stronger, more resilient food systems, from improving access to markets for farmers to boosting the productivity of crops.

We’re putting a special focus on adapting agricultural to – agriculture to the changing environment that we’re all experiencing.  We’re helping farmers learn techniques that make their crops more resilient.  Dr. Fowler is doing extraordinary work, along with international organizations, researchers, and donors, to improve healthy soil and identify regional crops that can thrive in Africa despite climate change.  This focus on soil and seeds is absolutely essential for the future.

We also expanded USAID’s Feed the Future program last year, from 12 target countries to 20, which will help farmers produce more crops, raise healthier livestock, and grow their businesses.  The work that USAID is doing every single day on the frontlines of this effort is absolutely central to our efforts.

Partnerships – across governments, science, business – that’s at the heart of so much of our work on food insecurity.  It is critical to our success.

And when it comes down to it, it’s the pioneers and visionaries like Heidi Kühn who are such a big part of this process.  They bring a spirit of innovation to this work.  They bring a spirit of determination to this work, and they are quite literally forging new paths toward progress.

It’s of course a special honor to be in the long, extraordinary shadow of Norm Borlaug.  Hard to think of a fellow citizen who’s done more for the world over so many years.  And Julie, a reference has been made to you.  Where are you?  Are you here with us today?  And if so, stand up – if not, we send our greetings to you.  We send our greetings to the entire family.  The efforts that Norman made to make our planet a little bit more just, a little bit more stable, a little bit more peaceful.

To this year’s winner of the prize, thank you for carrying on that extraordinary tradition.  And thanks to all of you for being here today and for your efforts every single day to help feed our planet.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  Secretary Blinken, thank you for those wonderful remarks.  We now return to the Iowan portion of the programming.  (Laughter.)  And it’s my honor to introduce another leader on food security here and abroad, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY VILSACK:  When I ran for governor in 1998, I wore a sweatshirt that said: I wasn’t born in Iowa, but I got here as fast as I could.  (Laughter.)  So Tony, Dr. Fowler, there’s still hope.   (Laughter.)

It’s an honor to be here today to acknowledge the work of Heidi and Roots [of] Peace.  For me, it’s somewhat of a framing device for the last month that I’ve experienced as Secretary of Agriculture.  Several weeks ago I was in Vietnam visiting with the prime minister about our relationship.  And what a phenomenal experience it is to be in Vietnam, a person my age; to have the experience of being welcomed by a leader and have the conversation and discussion substantively talk about the important role of agriculture in building relationships and friendships between two countries who in a lifetime had been at war.

It was interesting to me because at the tail end of our conversation, after we’d gotten through all of the trade issues and some of the substantive issues, the prime minister turned to me and he said, “We still need help.  We still need help removing explosive devices from our fields.  We still need the United States to work with us to allow our farmers the opportunity to farm.”  So Heidi’s work obviously incredibly important and ongoing, tragically.

I then traveled to Japan, another country at one point in time that we were at war, and had the opportunity to visit with the agricultural minister, whose first comment about the relationship between the United States and Japan was focused on the hog lift that Iowa farmers were engaged in when a tsunami hit Japan and wiped out their hog industry, and the importance and significance of that relationship that is still valued today.  As Ambassador Branstad knows, we’ve both been to Yamanashi, we both know how important that connection has been.

And then I come back home, and this week we invited folks who are engaged in our AIM For Climate Initiative.  Now, this is an initiative that is right down Norman Borlaug’s sweet spot.  It is about science, it’s about innovation, it’s about agriculture and the role of embracing and enabling farmers to continue to be productive, sustainable, and profitable.  We welcomed the largest number of agricultural ministers that have ever assembled in Washington, D.C. – over 50 nations represented at our Aim For Climate Summit.

And during the course of the conversations that we had with a number of noted guests, Norman Borlaug’s name was mentioned, world food laureate prize – World Food Prize laureates’ names were mentioned frequently, because there was a recognition and understanding that in order for us to deal with the existential challenge that we face in agriculture and in food security of continuing to be productive at a time when climate is changing and threatening our capacity to produce, it is science and innovation that is at the heart of how we’re going to approach this issue.

Norman had some great advice for policy makers, and that advice was take it to the farmer.  If you provide farmers the information, if you provide them the resources, there isn’t anything they can’t do.  There isn’t any problem they can’t solve when it comes to growing and raising food.

It’s been an extraordinary journey, and the World Food Prize allows us every year in October to focus the world’s attention on the importance of agriculture, on the importance of farmers, on the significant contribution they make not just to food security but to overall peace and security, as witnessed by the fact that we’re now working with Vietnam, we’ve always worked with Japan.  And during the course of the G7 meeting that was in Japan, the minister from Ukraine came on by video and talked about the necessity and need that when this war ultimately is over – and we hope it is over as soon as possible – the expectation is that the United States of America will work collaboratively with Ukraine to rebuild their agricultural economy.

So in acknowledging Heidi’s work, in acknowledging the work of the laureates in the past, we really live the opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of vision; the importance of a man, Norman Borlaug, whose vision still today impacts our ability to produce; the vision of John Ruan and John Ruan’s family in allowing this great opportunity to continue.

So I’m pleased to be here today.  I’m pleased to acknowledge Heidi and her family for the work that they do.  I’ve known her for quite some time.  The passion – the unfortunate thing was she’s not here today, because if she were, you would understand and appreciate the passion that drives her.  And that is the same passion that drove Norman Borlaug.  It is the same passion that has driven every one of our laureates.

So this is a day of celebration, a day of acknowledgment of the work of one person to make a difference.  But at the end of the day, it is ultimately a celebration of the power and significance of agriculture and of farmers everywhere in the world.  And that is indeed a cause for great celebration.  (Applause.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  Thank you, Secretary Vilsack, for those remarks.  It’s now my honor to introduce Dina Esposito, assistant to the administrator for the International Development Bureau for Resilience and Food Security at the U.S. Agency for International Development and deputy coordinator of the Feed the Future program.

Dina.  (Applause.)

MS ESPOSITO:  Thank you, Assistant Secretary Toloui, and good morning, everyone.  It’s wonderful to be here with those of you in Washington, and welcome to those of you joining virtually online as well.  I am thrilled to be here and to be adding my voice to those we’ve heard today and celebrating the World Food Prize Laureate Heidi Kühn.  Heidi Kühn’s leadership of Roots [of] Peace has shown us how agriculture can be a peacebuilder in the wake of conflict, not only rebuilding food systems in economies but by restoring hope and helping survivors envision and move towards a brighter future.  We don’t actually always think about this connection, how agricultural development can spur peace.  Roots of Peace has shown us that making this connection can lead to transformative results.

For 26 years, Heidi has been a thought leader, bridging peacebuilding, humanitarian assistance, and economic growth to show how agriculture can help people cope and sow the seeds of a positive future.  In conflict zones there’s a tendency to focus on the searing experience of the war itself, and we often forget that these zones are still places of possibility, where people live, work, raise their families; where smallholder farmers – many of them women – need to rebuild and sustain livelihoods despite cycles of conflict.  We must keep this at the forefront of our efforts.  More conflicts rage today than any time since the Cold War, and more people are displaced than ever before.

And when conflict strikes, it severely disrupts agriculture and food systems.  A farmer may not be able to plant or travel to markets.  She may have to cope in dangerous ways – by eating less, feeding her children less, traveling farther afield for goods, or quickly selling off her assets.  Wages, extension services, and inputs are adversely affected too.  And all of this further damages farmers’ ability to make the adjustment they need to adapt to a changing climate, further fueling vulnerability.  The better we understand these connections, as Heidi Kühn has, and the earlier we take action on them, the better we can achieve our shared goal of a more food-secure and peaceful world.

Conflict is the largest driver of global food insecurity worldwide.  And as the world’s provider – largest provider of humanitarian assistance, we at USAID often hear, as Secretary Blinken also said, this refrain in fragile and war-torn places:  Thank you for the relief assistance, but please help us rebuild so we can take care of ourselves and our families.  Because of visionary partners like Heidi and Roots of Peace, we are able to do just that, to integrate what are often siloed efforts of peacebuilding, conflict prevention, community resilience, and long-term development, bringing them together in a shared vision.

And we’re investing in lasting food security in communities around the world through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future global hunger initiative.  USAID is proud to call Roots of Peace a partner in this work.  In fact, this year marks 20 years since USAID and Roots [of] Peace first began working together.  This was in Afghanistan, where decades of war left the country’s farming infrastructure in ruins and its market linkages broken.  Through Heidi and her team’s efforts, smallholder farmers benefited from training, tools, and market support they needed to increase their harvests and their incomes.

It’s just one among – one example among many of how Roots [of] Peace has shown us through their work that we can help sustain livelihoods, even in conflict-affected settings.  It is this simple but powerful insight that Heidi Kühn acted on so many years ago, and for which we and the world are profoundly grateful.  Again, my thanks to Heidi for her groundbreaking work and well-deserved recognition as the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY TOLOUI:  Thank you, Dina.  And to close our ceremony, I’m pleased to welcome to the stage Jose Fernandez, the State Department’s under secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, to give closing remarks.  (Applause.)

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  Good morning.  Good morning.  Full disclosure:  I’m not from Iowa.  (Laughter.)  But two years ago, I participated in the race across Iowa, the RAGBRAI.  (Applause.)  And for six days and nights in 100-plus degree weather, across 500 miles of soybeans and corn fields, I experienced the warmth and the hospitality of Iowans – hospitality and pork chops.  (Laughter, applause.)  And – I haven’t had a pork chop since.  (Laughter.)

So thank you.  Thank you for joining us today.  Thank you to the World Food Prize Foundation for inviting us.  And thank you to the National Academy of Sciences for allowing us to use this beautiful venue.  I would like to add my congratulations to our winner, the 2022 [1]  prize laureate Heidi Kühn for her amazing work, her courageous work in converting heavily mined war zones into healthy and productive agricultural lands.  We at the State Department believe that we must make global food assistance more resilient in the face of armed conflicts such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while also responding to the critical threats that are posed by the climate crisis, climate crisis whose impact on global food security and global agriculture and fishery systems are increasingly severe.  We’re fortunate to have talented, far-seeing, innovative partners like Heidi Kühn and the World Food Prize Foundation to help us tackle these twin challenges.

And as we end today’s ceremony, it should be clear to everyone who’s here in person and also participating virtually how seriously the U.S. Government takes this issue – through pioneering  climate-resilient and food security initiatives, what Cary Fowler is doing now at the State Department or working with government, with embassies, with companies, with researchers, with philanthropies around the world to drive investment and innovation towards our most pressing challenges.  And we’re grateful to the World Food Prize Foundation for this – for advancing these goals, as well as to everyone here in this room.

Let me thank Secretary Blinken, Secretary Vilsack, my colleagues in EB, and Assistant Administrator Esposito for their personal engagement.  I’d also like to thank Ambassador Terry Branstad – thank you, sir – and the entire World Food Prize Foundation for their commitment to strengthening global food security and food systems.

The State Department and our government partners look forward to participating in the October Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines – and I look forward to being there as well – and our efforts throughout the year to advance common objectives to build sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems.

So thank you again.  Thank you again to everyone for joining us today, and once more, congratulations to the 2023 World Prize Laureate, Heidi Kühn.

Thank you.  (Applause.)


[1] 2023

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-the-2023-world-food-prize-laureate-announcement-ceremony/

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