Accelerating our mission with a more international reach
In our latest podcast, we hear about the plans and expanded mission of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture. Mark Titterington, Co-Founder of the Forum and Senior Adviser, and Caroline Mahr, the Forum Program Director, talk about the coming year of the Forum, EU-US relations, the shift towards a sustainable food system, and their views on the most important policies coming up in the next 12 months. For a taster, read our short summary below, or dive into the full 30-minute Food Systems Podcast for much more.
Before we look forward, what impact has COVID-19 had on the organization and what lessons have you learned from that?
CM: We’ve become much more a virtual organization and adopted an online format for events. We successfully delivered three weeks of virtual events this year – 14 sessions, more than 3,000 participants, 90 countries represented, and 100 speakers from around the globe.
MT: We were able to extend our reach virtually across the world, bringing in speakers from very different backgrounds, very different countries, very different perspectives. When you think about our mission of creating a space where new ideas and thinking can emerge, it really helped us accelerate our journey.
We’re now a decade into the Forum’s founding mission to combine food and agricultural security. Are we closer than 10 years ago?
MT: When we started, the objective was to show that agriculture and the environment were inextricably linked. As we’ve expanded our partnerships, we’ve been able to expand that mission – looking at how we make the system more resilient, more sustainable, how the system can contribute to mitigate the effects of climate change. We’re in a better position to think about the practical ideas we can take forward.
How much time will these new ideas need to gestate before they come to life and start contributing to climate and broader sustainability goals?
MT: Without diminishing the urgency, the most important thing is that the ideas have to be practical, they have to be implementable, and real. It’s important to take time to make sure we’ve got the rewards that need to go into the system to support the actors.
What global or European policy items do you see as most critical in the coming 12 months?
MT: From a European perspective, the Farm to Fork strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy are critical. Also the Fit for 55 package and particularly the focus on what the land use sector can and needs to get done and how it’s supported. Linked to that, setting the standards for areas like regenerative agriculture and carbon farming are going to require international cooperation. And interaction between public and private sectors will be important.
CM: Yes, it’s the impact of the EU policy packages on third countries and the relations we have with other continents of this world. We should also look into the true costs of food and how we integrate the price of natural resources more accurately.
The Forum aims to provide more connections between US and European policymakers. How do you see this progressing?
MT: Over the past couple of years the Forum has worked very hard to create the space for the US ad EU to interact at all levels, federal, presidential, Congress, state and cities. We’ll be building on that. There is a lot of willingness and openness to forge a new partnership. I think with our partnerships – like the Chicago Council, some new partnerships, and our existing strategic partners – and corporate members that go across boundaries, we can get a lot of mileage out of this transatlantic partnership and make a contribution in terms of ideas and thinking that will be critical going forward.
CM: It’s also important to the Forum to strengthen the networks of young entrepreneurs and young leaders from both sides of the Atlantic. Another element is the increasing trend towards regenerative agriculture on both sides – there will inevitably be a connection.
What are the big themes or highlights coming up from the Forum in the next 12 months?
MT: As we’ve mentioned, the EU policy agenda and what that means to land managers, growers and other actors. We’ll be delving into some of the things that civil society and companies are doing and asking to what extent they are delivering scalable solutions. And pushing forward with the transatlantic agenda.
We have our event in Paris in December, and next year our program for the month of March. With the major international events happening – the UN Food Systems Summit, Cop26 and the Convention on Biological Diversity – we will want to analyse what is coming out and what it means for actors and stakeholders in Europe.
CM: There are very specific topics that we will also address at our events: obviously, biodiversity, and another one is sustainable trade.
Looking at UN FSS and Cop26, what are your expectations?
CM: We expect leadership from public authorities, a real commitment from member states. We need to see a willingness from politicians to take up their responsibility to address climate change and the urgency of transforming the system. We’ve been talking about it enough already – can we move on! I expect a reinforcement and the opening up of public-private partnerships.
MT: Leadership is really important – honest, trustworthy, substantive, courageous leadership. There are two things they can do – set very clear direction, and provide funding that catalyses other funders.
What is, for each of you, one policy or practical suggestion for a more sustainable food system?
MT: As you know, the Forum doesn’t take a position on any one thing. So it’s a personal idea, revolving around ensuring that we get the standards and the quality set around regenerative agriculture and carbon farming, that we provide the support that growers need to make the transition, and that we have a market that’s available for both public and private actors.
CM: I’ve been looking at the connection between food consumption and food production, the impact on health and the need to protect nature. I would suggest some kind of mandatory education course in schools and academic universities, just to emphasize the impact of food production on our health and that of our children.
If you have found this short summary interesting, there’s lots more to hear in the full 20-minute conversation. It is available now on iTunes, Podbean or Spotify or on this website.
About Mark Titterington
Mark has enjoyed a long career in the agri-food sector having previously worked at the United Nations and for Syngenta where he held a number of senior leadership positions in corporate affairs and business sustainability in the EAME region and globally. Mark is a co-founder and senior adviser to the Forum for the Future of Agriculture and a Senior Fellow at the Transatlantic Policy Network. He is also the current Head of Marketing and Public Affairs for Indigo Agriculture Europe GmbH.
About Caroline Mahr
Caroline Mahr is the Program Director for the Forum for the Future of Agriculture and Project Manager at the European Landowners’ Organization.