The Feed the Future (FTF) initiative is the primary U.S. Government vehicle for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger globally by 2033 under the leadership of USAID. The FTF initiative has an overarching objective of inclusive economic growth, particularly agricultural growth and rural development. Rutgers University—with support from USAID under the FTF initiative—leads a multi-institutional consortium of researchers based in the U.S. and FTF countries to conduct a series of impact studies related to agricultural and food security policy. The Consortium, which was formed in late 2014, brings together leading experts in agricultural development policy and aspires to be a forum for independent and innovative research on policy analysis.
Although many FTF activities are focused on improving agricultural productivity and growth arising, in part, from use of better and more affordable inputs, better linkages to markets, and greater non-farm opportunities, sustainable and inclusive agricultural growth is the result of systemic agricultural transformation. Thus, the first critical area of emphasis for the Rutgers FTF Consortium research agenda is developing a clearer understanding of contemporary agricultural transformation and how to manage it for the greatest societal benefit.
Second, a key catalyst for the systemic change that undergirds agricultural transformation is systemic agricultural and food policy change, leading to an enabling policy environment. What constitutes such an environment is highly context-specific but it is understood to encompass policies that are non-distortionary, market-friendly, and where the role of the state is limited to correcting market failures and the provision of public goods. Such generalizations are useful only as policy guides, as the actual formulation and implementation of specific policies will require careful consideration and analysis. Policy legitimacy is also linked to the policy process, inclusive, transparent and evidence-based processes associated with greater legitimacy and therefore better implementation of enabling policy. Understanding the policy process, and importantly the causal impacts of policy is therefore a key prerequisite to developing a desirable policy environment. Knowledge of which policies are effective and the conditions that determine their success will be critical in evaluating them against competing policies and determining replicability and scalability. Thus, the second critical area of emphasis for the Rutgers FTF Consortium research agenda is understanding how agricultural and food policies and policy systems help enable and contribute to agricultural transformation.