As the drought situation eases in California, Arthur Gen (AG) Kawamura envisions a world where agriculture thrives and the world is fed.In the final Heuermann Lecture of the academic year at UNL, the former California agriculture secretary spoke at the Water for Food Global Conference at Nebraska Innovation Campus.
Kawamura served as the California Secretary of Agriculture from 2003-10. He's a third generation fruit and vegetable grower and shipper from Orange County and a co-chair of Solutions from the Land -- a project aimed at creating a sustainable roadmap for 21st century agriculture.
Last year, Kawamura said he was in a much different situation when he came to this conference. California was facing its fifth year of drought, and he was concerned he wouldn't be able to continue farming.
"What a difference a year makes," he said.
And, despite a wide range of situations and challenges, he's optimistic about opportunities that are coming in the future.
He compared the United States to other countries that haven't developed the same agricultural technologies.
"Now that we're mature, we can start to recognize that the clock is ticking and we have a lot of opportunity and can change our own destiny," Kawamura said.
He said it's going to be important for people to focus on building resilience in the face of crisis, especially when it comes to natural resources.
"The minute we don't have abundance, we start to create scarcity and scarcity is how we start to create violence and other challenges," he said.
But still, he said, food is not a right. It's a privilege.
Kawamura said it will be important to make sure enough food can be produced to feed the world, with the increasing population.
"Once we have the capacity and we're producing enough for the entire world, then you can say it's a right," Kawamura said.
Kawamura is frustrated by the way some people treat agriculture. Instead of seeing it as a solution, some see it as a problem.
With developing technologies that increase food production, Kawamura is hopeful there is a brighter future to feed the world.
"When you do know better, you understand there are threats you're facing," Kawamura said. "If you don't do something about it, you're participating in a kind of negligence that's alarming."
Kawamura looks to present and future generations to redefine agriculture sustainability and take advantage of future opportunities to increase agricultural production.
"I started this out by saying, 'What a difference a year makes,'" Kawamura said. "But let me say this: What a difference a century makes."