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Agriculture leaders from around the world met in a roundtable discussion at the 2001 World Agricultural Forum in St. Louis.
Earlier this year, world experts and leaders in agriculture convened as part of the World Agricultural Forum (WAF) Advisory Board of Directors, chaired by The Right Honorable James B. Bolger, ONZ. Their goal was to define the issues and challenges facing the agriculture industry in its task of supplying food, fuel and fiber to a population growing in numbers and income. Critical issues such as technology transfer, trade policy, food security, open food systems, sustainable agriculture, capacity building and, perhaps most importantly, water availability will be addressed by the next World Congress May 18-20, 2003, in St. Louis.

What is unique to the 2003 World Congress is that the full spectrum of the agricultural industry's leadership will be present. Financers, producers, processors, transporters, world governments, advocacy groups, development organizations, heads of academic institutions, researchers and consumers will come together through the open dialogue facilitated by WAF.

By attending the World Congress, the executives of the agricultural industry are offered a unique opportunity to meet with and influence decision-makers who form trade policy and domestic legislation. Producers and processors will have a chance to gain advanced knowledge of new technologies and equipment through conversations with researchers, while grocers and food companies can identify directly from the consumers what they want, need or are willing to purchase.

For the first time at any global meeting, participants at the 2003 Congress will be addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Food System. The economies that compose the APEC Food System represent 46 percent of global commerce. It is therefore imperative that businesses located within the APEC economies are on the ground floor of discussions about trade and development in the region. Agriculture in Latin America will also be a prominent topic. Unique problems exist with both the economies and the economic systems in this vast and growing agricultural producing area.

As chairman of the WAF Advisory Board, Bolger - former prime minister of New Zealand - will convene the 2003 World Congress, which will feature heads-of-state who will define the most pressing concerns facing their respective countries and how they are managing these concerns to ensure their citizens' food supply.

The WAF has created an NGO Advisory Council to ensure that the agenda will be open and inclusive, leading from discussions to the identification of alternatives, strategies and programs to make agricultural development truly global. If solutions to the agriculture challenges are to be developed, everyone must be present as co-equals. This is the value of a neutral forum.

The Right Honorable James B. Bolger, ONZ, former prime minister of New Zealand, is Chairman of the World Agricultural Forum Adivsory Board.
Academics are concerned with curricula, the training of students and the understanding of agriculture as the bedrock for all world economies. Business schools, agriculture schools and universities must produce those individuals who will lead the industry in the 21st century. Yet challenges often go unrecognized by the public because in the developed world areas there seems to be a sufficient supply of safe, affordable food. Tragically, however, there are nearly 800 million people suffering from chronic starvation. The academic community must have the ability to create curricula that lead to graduates capable of understanding those problems and creating solutions.

The World Congress will be broadcast live on the Internet and via television and radio. The proceedings will be published for distribution to attendees. The debates will be preserved and concerns will be discussed for ultimate resolution. The agenda is published at AM

Leonard Guarraia is chairman and president of the World Ag Forum, a St. Louis-based independent, not-for-profit organization that brings together global leaders and stakeholders to discuss sustaining the world's growing population.

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