U.S.-Indian Agricultural Cooperation

Robert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs 
Khalsa College
Amritsar, Punjab, India
September 13, 2010

I'm delighted to be here at Khalsa College. Thank you to Dr. Daljit Singh, the Khalsa College faculty and to you for having me. Punjab is known as the breadbasket of India, so I came here to Amritsar to meet farmers, to visit the John Deere leasing facility and to speak to you about agriculture, which will be a key example of our strong bilateral relationship. I also enjoyed my visit to the Golden Temple, which I found profoundly moving and deeply spiritual.

Let me start with observations about the bright future of India. As a young graduate student, I and a group of friends took a bus ride through India, starting in Delhi, traveling through Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. India’s transformation between then and now has been impressive. Indians can look back on the last 30 years with a sense of pride and accomplishment. But by the time you complete your careers I believe that you will be able to look back on an even more remarkable period: a period in which hundreds of millions more people in this country will achieve middle-class living standards. The tremendous economic energy that was unleashed, beginning with the reforms of the 1990s, and then the dramatic technological advance of the last two decades here, opened opportunities that have empowered millions of women and men throughout the country, and your children will enjoy even greater opportunities. During your careers you will not just change India, you will change the world. You will provide a rich legacy of science, technology, culture, medicine and other innovations that will benefit huge numbers of people in this country, in the United States and in many other countries.

The U.S. is eager to cooperate with India in education. We want to see U.S. higher education institutions partnering with Indian universities to further accelerate the rapid development and progress. The rich heritage of Indian-American cooperation in education has benefitted both countries and the world.

Beyond this, the United States and India share a long and deep history in many other areas, grounded in shared principles and a common commitment to democracy and access to opportunity. We have worked together on some of the world's most pressing issues—from agricultural breakthroughs to energy innovation to reversing the global economic downturn.

I would like to highlight an area of cooperation that will require the participation of not only our governments, but our businesses, farmers, NGOs, scientists and economists—and that is agriculture. Agriculture cooperation has played an increasingly important role in our relationship. In India, over 60% of the population’s economic activity is agriculture-based. And just last year bilateral trade in agriculture, fish and forestry products between our two countries reached $2.2 billion.

But trade is only one component of this relationship. Tomorrow, when I join Foreign Secretary Rao, and Under Secretary Miller from the U.S Department of Agriculture, to launch the U.S.-India Agriculture Dialogue, we will be strengthening our bilateral partnership to help address the twin challenges of hunger and undernutrition. And it won't be the first time we've done so. Over 40 years ago, an American scientist, Norman Borlaug, and an Indian scientist, M.S. Swaminathan, took the first step. Their research on an obscure range of dwarf seeds would one day help double food production throughout Asia and Africa.

Funded by the Rockefeller foundation and other U.S. organizations, this began what became known as the Green Revolution—a period when India adopted a series of highly successful agriculture policies, including double-cropping, increased irrigation, and greater land use for agriculture. High-yield seeds like Lerma Rojo, Sonora 64, Siete Cerros, and Super X became household names. The Green Revolution was so successful here that it transformed India from a country which faced periods of starvation to an export nation whose agricultural output quadrupled from the 1960s to the 1990s.

But today, widespread hunger and undernutrition is once again drawing the world's attention. One out of every six people is at risk of not having enough to eat. And hungry families, which tend to spend more than half of their income on food, remain extremely vulnerable to food price increases. That's why we need a second Green Revolution.

Our new collaborative efforts, under the U.S.-India Agriculture Dialogue will help discover solutions for the new agricultural challenges we face. Years ago, the Green Revolution used more inputs for greater yields. But now those same inputs yield relatively less. We also must confront issues like climate change and water table depletion.

Our U.S.-India Agriculture Dialogue will focus on the ways we can harness modern technology to improve crop yields and other productivity metrics for farmers. By sharing our expertise, we can once again develop new tools and resources that will benefit "Aam Aadmi" — the common man. We see this as a partnership for progress between Indian and American scientists and agricultural experts. Each side has something special to contribute to the process. We will accomplish far more together than we would separately.

India and the U.S. share a strong interest in harnessing the benefits of science and technology for agriculture. The Dialogue we are engaging in builds upon a partnership between our top government science agencies. In August, a delegation of Indian scientists led by Dr. Kasturirangan came to Washington for a meeting with American experts on weather and climate forecasting for agriculture. The two sides agreed to a framework for specific areas of cooperation to enhance food security for the Indian people.

We know that a bad monsoon will reduce harvests, pushing down food stocks and pushing up food prices, so we are developing tools that can deliver information to farmers about how best to anticipate and manage changes in weather and crop conditions using the latest technology from satellite weather forecasting. We can provide practical information relevant to the everyday decisions of farmers in villages throughout India. Using the most advanced technology, we will meet the most basic needs of human beings. Food security and good nutrition is our goal.

We're also are exploring other exciting developments, such as drought-resistant crops; technologies that will help both our countries adapt to the challenges of climate change, as well as improving nutrition and food security. The Agriculture Dialogue also dovetails with the Obama Administration's Feed the Future initiative that aims to reduce poverty, hunger, and undernutrition around the world. The U.S. and India will partner in this effort, collaborating in research and technology development that could benefit not only India, but also extend to other countries.

In closing, let me just note that the United States and India have much to offer the rest of the world. And given the stakes, we can't afford to wait. The seeds of the second Green Revolution must take root today, if we want millions of people throughout India and the rest of the world to enjoy greater agricultural abundance and better diets, and future generations to reap the benefits as well.

Agriculture is only one area where the U.S. and India will cooperate. We look forward to wide-ranging cooperation across many sectors including science, clean energy, medicine, and technology. Indeed I am confident that many of you in this audience will help lead the way to a more prosperous future for India and a closer relationship with the United States. As I mentioned earlier, in your lifetimes, many of you will change India and many of you will change the world. Thank you.