MS. TUMULTY: Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today for our conversation on a subject that could hardly be more important. We are so pleased to be joined today by a couple of experts in the field. Ertharin Cousin has a very broad and deep background in government, in nonprofits, and spent five years as the head of the World Food Programme, and Ricardo Salvador has spent 30 years as an advocate for a more equitable and sustainable global food system. He is the director and the senior scientists for Food & Environmental Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

And I think for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in prosperous parts of the world, the COVID pandemic was a real shocker, to walk into our grocery stores and suddenly see empty shelves, to see massive amounts of food waste, and, of course, to see prices just going through the ceiling.

But these are not new issues for you, and they are also a reminder that we are living on a planet where 9 percent of the population is either hungry or in danger of becoming so.

So, Ertharin, could you explain to us a little bit about why our food system is so unstable and so fragile?

MS. COUSIN: Well, thank you very much for this opportunity to spend time with you and your viewers today to talk about this subject, because whenever we can bring attention to the challenges in the food system, much less the challenges that are facing the affluent but those that are facing the vulnerable populations around the world, we are much more likely to solve it.

So, what is the problem? We have a food system that is, in the United States and globally, efficient, but not agile. And what COVID did was unbare the challenges of the lack of agility in the food system.

In the United States, what we saw was that the efficient food system that provides — basically has two channels, one that is institutional, one that is retail. That institutional channel that provides foods to restaurants, schools, and other large-volume food producers, when there was a disruption in that food system, because people were sheltering in place and restaurants were closed, hotels were closed, et cetera, there was no place for that product to go.

And on the other side, the retail food system, there is a system of demand that the food producers are accustomed to delivering to wholesalers and retailers in certain quantities to support an anticipated demand. And what we saw was an increase on that side.

So, the lack of agility in that system created food that was unstable and unaffordable. And so we saw–and we also saw the other challenge that COVID revealed was when there was a loss of jobs and income, that people who normally would buy found themselves in a food line, and we don’t have a social safety net that could quickly provide the food that was necessary.

So, what you saw was people without food, in lines, you saw higher prices in grocery stores, and we witnessed the farmers dumping milk, culling their herds, and plowing under the produce in their fields, because they had no market. And what we recognized is that the need is not just for efficiency but also for agility in the food system.

MS. TUMULTY: Ricardo, how did the system become this fragile, this unstable, and is it more centralized than it used to be? And looking forward, where do you think resources should go to make us more prepared for this sort of disruption?

MR. SALVADOR: Yeah. I think that the issue is that this is a very powerful global, logistical system. It is interesting that you mentioned the concept of centralization, which kind of conjures up the question of whether there is some central governance or some central means of regulating the way that decisions are made within the system.

What has led us to the situation that we have is actually overspecialization and concentration. A lot of monopolies are within the system. The system is made up of lots of different parts. You know, it’s the definition of a system, lots of different parts working in coordination to fulfill a particular objective. And I think that what we are dealing with here, as Ertharin has described, is a system that when confronted with an unexpected shock, demonstrated two major vulnerabilities. One was not resilience to that shock, all the disruptions that Ertharin just described to us. Another is manifestly inequitable, because we all experienced it in different ways.

And so, the reason why my answer to your question is that we are overspecialized explains a lot of this, is that the system is geared toward everything functioning to smooth conditions–to perfection. The people that have specialized in epidemiology and have told us, have been warning us — I am aware of warnings that date all the way back to the ’90s — that a pandemic of the sort that we are experiencing at this moment was possible, are also telling us that zoonotic diseases, like the one that caused this pandemic, are actually going to become more frequent in the future.

So, this is a very relevant question to ask. You know, can we meet the test of a resilient system for all of the different parts of the system? So, for farmers, for workers, for the buyers, for the eaters, for the industry, being that if we encounter a shock like this in the future, will we be able to continue to produce and sell? Will we be able to buy and process? We will be able to continue to eat, in spite of the fact that this unexpected shock occurred? If we had to confront this thing again next summer, the structure of the industry right now is not such that we wouldn’t continue to experience these disruptions.

So, we have to ask, how can we make the system more resilient and more responsive to unexpected shocks? How do we get away from the specialization that measured one way is a marvel of global logistics but exposes us to all the vulnerabilities that Ertharin listed for us? So those are the major questions that we need to answer.

MS. TUMULTY: And, you know, we live in a world, as members of our audience have noticed, we have an audience question here from Ellen Miller in New York, who asks, shouldn’t the UN or perhaps other global relief organizations be able to create more public-private partnerships that could work with farmers? I mean, it feels like companies like Amazon, companies like FedEx can get just about anything in the world to your front doorstep. Couldn’t they be part of the solution with this?

MS. COUSIN: What we saw during this COVID response is that there has been more farmer-to-consumer delivery of food, not just through Amazon, Walmart, but through farmers markets, through co-ops. But what we also recognized and this–was that those services were available to consumers who could afford it, and it was much more available, of course, to the affluent than to the poor.

In the United States, those who are SNAP beneficiaries, what were the old food stamps, could not use those SNAP benefits to purchase foods direct from a farmers market or direct from a cooperative. And so–but if you could–but we also saw a 150 percent increase by, as I said, the affluent in accessing directly from internet purveyors, from everything from Amazon to direct-from-farm commodities. And that is where, when we talk about where we need to invest, both domestically and internationally, it is in ensuring that we have systems that are not only accessible but affordable, that we are providing both from a government-published benefit standpoint the support that is necessary to ensure that those who receive government benefits have the same access to food as the affluent, and that we have processing facilities that are close enough to the consumer that they make that food affordable.

MS. TUMULTY: Ricardo, on top of this crisis we also have the chronic problem of climate change. To what degree does our food supply system, does our food chain, does international agriculture contribute to the environmental crisis that was with us before COVID and will be with us once COVID is presumably, you know, tackled?

MR. SALVADOR: Yeah, there are two aspects to that question. Agriculture is involved with climate change both as one of the industries that contribute to climate change but also as one of the industries that needs to be resilient to climate change, meaning it needs to be able to continue to deliver food and all of the industrial products that it generates, in spite of climate change. And it still has another role, which is that it could actually help to mitigate climate change.

Now let me walk through this just very carefully. There are actually larger contributors, by far, to climate change, so the fossil fuel industry, the energy fuel construction, and so on. If you include all aspects of the food system, not just production and agriculture, you can get into a percentage maybe a little bit north of 20 percent in terms of the agri-food system contribution to climate change.

Now the interesting thing is that climate change will disrupt production. The way that it will show up for farmers and for the industries that buy from farmers is very similar to what the pandemic has done. That means that there will be failed production. That means that what people are expecting to buy will not be available. And that means that these industries and those farmers have exactly the same interest that we have right now in figuring out how we can become resilient to these kinds of unexpected shocks.

Now the good news is that shifting the structure of agriculture, which is entirely possible to do — these are decisions that are up to us to make and to industry and to government to make jointly — can help to mitigate the worst contributors to climate change from agriculture. These tend to be the misuse or mismanagement of nitrogen fertilizer. It tends to be the way in which we produce beef. It isn’t necessary that we produce beef. There are ways that beef can be produced that can be far less of a problem for climate change than the system that we have right now, and that is a matter of active research. The key thing is that agriculture could contribute to sequestering carbon, in other words, to reverse the thing that is actually causing climate change at the moment.

So, this is a very relevant question that has to do with everything that the pandemic is highlighting right now. Are we smart enough, and are we responsible enough to look ahead and prepare ahead of a disaster so that we can be resilient to climate change?

MS. TUMULTY: And Ricardo, what are some of the practices in agriculture worldwide that you think are contributing the most, that really need to be changed most quickly and most urgently?

MR. SALVADOR: Well, I mentioned a couple of them. Let me start out with the one that is the obvious one and the one that I mentioned where there is active research. The way in which we currently produce beef is one of the major contributors. One of the factors has to do with the fact that what beef do is convert roughage, the material that human beings wouldn’t be able to eat directly, into an edible product, you know, protein-rich food. The biological process that they undergo, or that they use in order to be able to produce, means that they partner with bacteria, and bacteria in their digestive tract actually creates the byproduct of methane, which is one of the most active greenhouse gases.

Now the active fields of research ask the question, is that necessarily part of the digestive process? Can we change that? But more importantly, the actual production processes to date have involved extensive grazing of beef, to fatten them up, in tropical areas of the world that have necessitated deforestation. And it is that deforestation which has unlocked, first of all, the carbon in the forest, and second of all, the carbon in soils, which is made available when we disrupt the natural ecosystems. That is further accelerated when we get into row crop planting, which is typically large extensions of monocrop, that means the same plant, that are annuals, meaning that we disrupt the soil structure every year. So that releases more carbon. The organic matter that is stored in the soil is disrupted, it is oxidized, and then it is released as carbon dioxide.

Furthermore, in order to stoke the productivity of those crops, we fertilize with nitrogen, and that nitrogen can be mismanaged in such a way that it can also create potent greenhouse gases through a number of different channels. Nitrous oxide would be one of them. And particularly when you have ponded soils, and rice production is the optimal example, but the production of any cereal grain can lead to the generation of nitrous oxide again.

So, row crop production and intensive monocrops, a large extension is with mismanagement of nitrogen fertilizer. That is tied to the final stage of beef production, and beef production itself, if it involves extensive grazing on deforested land, all of that is the complex or the syndrome that gives us the climate change problem out of agriculture. And there are smarter ways of doing that, as I have mentioned.

MS. TUMULTY: Ertharin, you sit on the board of Bayer, which owns Monsanto, which I don’t think a lot of people realize has essentially got a monopoly on the seed industry. What would you like to see corporations do to sort step up, to do things like encourage things like crop rotation? If you are a poor farmer in an underdeveloped country, of course you are going to plant the same crop over and over and over again, to maximize the amount of money that you can earn to feed your family, even though it does come at a longer-term consequence to the environment.

MS. COUSIN: Well, let me first of all say that Bayer does not have a monopoly on the seed industry, okay, that there are many competitors, several large competitors in the seed industry, from the commercial standpoint as well as any number of small seed producers across the developing world that Bayer does not compete with.

And I want to also underline Bayer’s commitment to supporting sustainability. They have made a commitment to providing access to seed and crop protection tools for 100 million small-holder farmers over the next ten years, recognizing the need for increasing the productivity of small holders in developing countries.

But I want to put that to the side to talk specifically, to your point, to talk more broadly about the need for public-private partnerships for addressing many of the issues that were just raised about what is necessary to change agricultural production. We need to move, and many companies, including Bayer, are researching and investing in new tools that are biological and digital, that will give farmers access to the capacity to support the kind of regenerative farming and conservation farming that were just identified as necessary, to address the climate change challenge.

There is a movement in agriculture that I think the private sector has very much engaged in driving, and that is moving us towards an agriculture that is sustainable not just for today but for feeding the 9.5 to 10 billion people by 2050, and also protecting our climate.

MS. TUMULTY: I would love for both of you to address the fact, too, that part of this problem internationally is a political one. We see migration. We see refugees from political strive. To what degree do you think that is a factor in kind of the unpreparedness that we really saw on the part of the world for this pandemic, which is essentially a man-made and government’s problem?

MS. COUSIN: Well, I will jump in first, because so much of my past has been spent working with the most vulnerable consumers around the globe, recognizing that access to nutritious food is not something that one country alone can resolve, that it will take the global community working together in cooperation between government, private sector, the NGOs, academia, to support the implementation of the not just programs but the investments that are necessary to ensure that we are not just solving problems in our food system for the affluent and affluent farmers but for the low-income farmers, small-holder farmers, as well as low-income eaters.

The challenge that we see today is too much of the response, or much of the response for what became a health crisis and an economic crisis and ultimately a food crisis we resolved as nations and not as a global community. We must work together to ensure that the solutions that come online are provided to the entire global community and not just, as I said, to those who can afford it. That is the challenge of our political situation today, where too many of our countries have said, “I am focusing on my country first” as opposed to the issues of the wider global community. And we see that neither violence nor poverty will recognize borders. And so, our responsibility is to ensure that we are not just addressing the problems for ourselves but as a global community.

MS. TUMULTY: Ricardo, before we run out of time — this has been a pretty dark and scary conversation — I would like to ask both of you, are you seeing any hopeful signs? Are you seeing any signs of innovation or perhaps the kind of redeployment of resources that might make the world a little more resilient in the future? Is there any creativity that we can point to going on out there?

MR. SALVADOR: Well, I would like to combine the last question that you asked with this one. I understand fully whenever we deal with something that is as big and as complex as what we have discussed that we need to walk away with some sign of hope. But I do want to be realistic about the hopeful signs, that I will list for you, by first of all addressing what I think is one major threat.

I agree very much with what Ertharin has said, that the issues that we have been discussing are multisectoral. However, I will take a very strong position that I think that one of the distortions that is majorly responsible for the disruptions that we have experienced is disproportionate corporate power, monopoly power, because in many cases that exceeds the power of governments.

And let me give you an example. In the theory of the market, when you have all of us competing in a self-interested fashion, the theory is that we should produce the best outcomes for both buyers and sellers. When that does not happen, when we have a market breakdown, then we have all agreed, by social contract, in the West, in liberal governments, that then there is a role for government to step in and actually make things equitable for all players to deal with market breakdown.

We saw severe market breakdown during the pandemic for a number of different reasons, and we saw the manifestation of corporate power, and it showed up this way. We know what we need to do to protect workers in the field, harvesting fruits and vegetables, that normally work in close quarters, as well as meatpacking workers that, again, work in close quarters, under conditions that make them extremely susceptible to transmission of a disease that travels by aerosols. We know that. Government agencies — CDC, OSHA — have actually specified to the industry, the meatpacking industry, what they need to do.

However, we saw a differential political power manifested. The meat industry specifically wanted for workers to be declared essential and to show up at great peril to their health and their personal security and that of their communities, without necessarily making the adjustments necessary to make their workplaces safer, and they got a presidential executive order in place for that to come about. They manifested political power. The workers don’t have that political power, and therefore were compelled, if they wanted to keep their jobs, to show up and work under hazardous conditions.

Now this is just one example. That means that as long as corporations have at least that degree of influence, if not are more powerful than governments themselves, then that multisectoral scenario, where all of us represent our interest and we work out solutions that actually benefit all of us, is not possible. It is not within the realm of possibility. So, we need to deal with disproportionate corporate power, which right now, given the choice, as we saw in the case of the meatpacking industry, will you make a decision to protect your workers or to secure your profits and shareholder interests? They chose to protect their profits and their shareholder interests. So that is something that needs to be addressed.

Now, hope. We did recover, to some extent, some stability and manifested some resilience by doing the opposite of what specialization does. That is that we found ways in which we could actually go into redundancy, where we could find redistribution in a less-concentrated way through mechanisms such as food hubs, or repurpose farm-to-school networks, reverse them so that communities could go to schools where there were kitchens, where there was distribution of food, or a terminal distribution of food, and then access food. Local markets, CSAs, things of that sort manifested the redundant capacity in the system at a regional scale, and that is what we will need.

MS. TUMULTY: Well thank you so much, both of you. Certainly, this pandemic has made the world feel like a much smaller and more vulnerable and interconnected place. I am afraid that is all the time we have for this segment. Thank you again for joining us today.

I will be right back with CEO and president of Heifer International, Pierre Ferrari. So please stick around.

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MS. TUMULTY: Hello again. I’m Karen Tumulty, a columnist here at The Washington Post. And for our second interview this afternoon we are being joined by Pierre Ferrari, who spent many years in the corporate world–Coca-Cola, Ben & Jerry’s–and is now the head of Heifer International, which is a really creative organization that really goes directly to small farmers all around the world.

And so, the first thing I would like to ask you is the same question. I mean, what have you learned about the vulnerability of our global food supply system in this crisis?

MR. FERRARI: So, I can speak–hi, Karen, first of all, I’ll say hello. The–where we work, which is mostly in very poor countries and where farmers don’t really have the resources like some of them here do, we have found that the breakdown in the system due to COVID was mostly in transportation and delivery to the marketplaces, right? The markets, the aggregation points, distribution, et cetera. And so, we have a lot of surprising examples.

And the last question you asked Ertharin and Ricardo was what’s the hope. Well, we found a tremendous amount of innovation and entrepreneurs, and they said, okay, if people aren’t going to go pick up like they usually do, the food that we produce, we’re going to go to the consumers directly. And in India, in Nepal, in Ecuador, the farmers have organized themselves to say, okay, how do we–how do we gather and aggregate the work that we do, the products that we produce and take it to market. And they have done an incredible job in doing that.

So, the system broke down and it gave an opportunity, which is a very entrepreneurial, kind of venture capital situation, to say, okay, we need to do that. The interesting thing was that capital to actually get that done–you need trucks, you need a warehouse, you need–you know, you need a whole bunch of infrastructure to actually deliver directly to consumers. Well, they got it. They found it. They were able to do it because it was a very localized system. They knew the bankers. You know, they’re probably related in some way if you think about the communities in which they operate.

So we were left–we are left and we are working right now with providing participatory capital to make sure that this is enduring, that it’s sustainable, that the actual infrastructure that’s required to create the kind of flexibility that Ertharin was talking about is actually permanent, because that permanence then will allow the farmers to be freed from the sort of oligopolistic perception and structures that Ricardo was talking about, which is absolutely true. So, I am actually very optimistic in the countries where we work.

There are some other–there are some other forces that make it very difficult. For example, in India large numbers–I’m talking about hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions–have been displaced from their jobs in the big cities–Mumbai, Chennai, et cetera, New Delhi and are moving back to their villages in states like Bihar. And in most of these states, the food security is not high, and suddenly you’re bringing in millions of people back into a state where there’s not enough food for the existing population and suddenly you’ve got several hundred thousand people coming back with no money and very poor land access. So, there is a substantial breakdown not in the food supply so much but just in the fact that the demand for food has just shifted over to a place that is just not ready for the food system to accommodate.

But they will. There’s something extraordinarily powerful about demand generating supply. But it does take time. And in the meantime, lots of people are going to be hungry, if not starving.

MS. TUMULTY: Well, you talk about the creativity and the flexibility of these small individual farmers in some of the most distressed places in the world. How much of a capital investment, what’s the scale we’re talking about to really make a difference in the life of, say, a farmer in Bangladesh? How much money and resources are we really talking about?

MR. FERRARI: Yeah, I’ll give you a specific example from Nepal rather than Bangladesh. So, we’ve organized a large number of farmers, and they’re organized around co-ops. We have a community of about 2,000 goat farmers who were actually quite successful in growing goats, farming goats, and then selling it to market through the system that existed.

When COVID arrived, suddenly the channel through which they were distributing their goats dried up. People didn’t turn up. They were sick. There was a lockdown, et cetera. So, what they needed were trucks. They needed some trucks to take their goats to market in Katmandu and other major cities.

The investment that was made for these 2,000 farmers, we provided $30,000, they provided $30,000. The community itself was able to raise $30,000. And the local banks also stepped up with a loan of $30,000. So, with almost $100,000, these farmers were able to equip themselves to distribute the product very rapidly and very effectively. And these communities actually in this downward crisis did go up a little bit, are prospering because they managed to take advantage of the situation.

So, you’re talking about 2,000 farmers, about $100,000 to build an infrastructure and a distribution system that allowed them to reconnect with the market. That’s kind of the order of magnitude. So if you’re thinking about 100 million farmers or 200 million farmers times maybe something like $5,000 for farmers, you’re talking billions of money that would actually help to build an infrastructure that provides the flexibility that Ertharin was talking about, you know, that they have–instead of being dependent on large organizational or transportation organizational or even seed producers, you know–and Ertharin is right. There’s a large number of seed producers all over the world. The issue for farmers is the quality of the seed. There are a lot of different quality, from absolutely useless to being absolutely superb quality seeds that allow the farmers to be productive.

And the seed system, the–you know, we’ve talked a lot about distributing food to the consumers, but the whole–where one of the breakdowns in the food system was food for the animals, seeds for the planting, medicine for the animals. All these systems just stopped. Meanwhile, your chickens might get sick. And if they get sick, they die, and suddenly all those assets evaporate. So, we worked very hard to make sure that the health supply system was not interrupted, and so we considered them to be essential workers and we were able to actually help a great deal for a variety of reasons, which I can explain if you’d like.

MS. TUMULTY: Well, one thing is, you know, Heifer International has the word “international” in the name, but you also do work in the United States, as well.

MR. FERRARI: Absolutely.

MS. TUMULTY: Could you talk a little bit about that and sort of the challenges that you have seen among U.S. farmers? And again, we tend to think of big gigantic corporate agriculture. But again, our own producers are under a lot of stress.

MR. FERRARI: We are–we are building essentially a boutique, if you like, a boutique system to deliver much higher-quality livestock. And that’s beef, pork, chicken, lamb, et cetera. And it’s all grass-fed. It’s a product that, as Ertharin mentioned, a lot of these products are sold to people who can afford them. They’re expensive products. Very nourishing, very high-quality, high nutrition, et cetera, but nonetheless, it is not the cheap steak you can buy at Costco.

So what we’ve built is a very resilient system that has the farmers all aggregated mostly in Arkansas, a little bit in Missouri and Mississippi, and then linked directly to a processing system that is also owned by this co-op, this system, which is exceptionally flexible and unlike the large mass meat processors, has its workers as a highest priority in terms of how they operate. So, we have a cooperative system that produces the farmers–the individual smallholder farmers has an outlet or they have outlets for their meat, whatever the cattle, pork, chickens. They send it to a system, a processing system that’s also highly labor oriented. And then we sell it to an ecommerce operation called Grass Roots Co-Op, which is also partly owned by the rest of us so that it’s this whole continuum unitary system, if you like, and we sell that by retail on ecommerce.

So, we–what happened during the COVID situation, we were doing quite well, sales were going on quite well before that, and suddenly COVID hit and nobody could get meat in the retail. Now they can, but they couldn’t then. And sales just skyrocketed. And we had the inventory, so that–we were able to meet demand. And today the Grass Roots Co-Op or the whole system is probably selling about twice as much as it was before. So, it’s a boutique system. This is not competing with Walmart or Costco or Safeway or Kroger or any of these massive retailers.

But we found that consumers–and this is the interesting part of it. Will consumers hold on to the experience they’ve had at sampling and enjoying higher, much higher-quality products than what is found in the commercial system?

So–and I just go back to the beer industry at some point–I don’t know if you remember the 90s, the small local breweries began to have a huge impact on the monopolistic control by Anheuser-Busch, Coors, and Miller. And I’m wondering whether the same thing is actually going to happen in the supply of higher-quality product. You know, I don’t think I’ve had a Coors Lite in 20 years. I mean, I–you know, I drink local brews, right? I mean, and a lot of people do. And it’s changed that industry. It absolutely changed the brewery industry.

MS. TUMULTY: Well, we have just another few minutes. I would like to bring a question from our audience, Anne Whiteside in California, who wants to know how do we make these local food economies more resilient in terms of climate change and our longer-term environmental challenges.

MR. FERRARI: Right. So, we practice what is called, you know, climate-smart agriculture. Ricardo talked about the fact that you could–you can raise beef in a way that’s actually very detrimental to the climate in terms of deforestation, et cetera. And we don’t do any of that. There’s a mechanism or there is an approach to for example livestock raising–we made mostly beef–called holistic management. What happens is that you rotate the grazing of the animals in such a way that you actually improve the quality of the soil and sequester an enormous amount of carbon. There’s a man out there–which actually is a great Ted Talk–by a guy called Allan Savory which I would recommend your viewers to watch. It’s 20 minutes of incredibly entertaining perspectives on how livestock, from his point of view, can actually be a major tool in carbon sequestration and therefore climate mitigation.

So, we do that. We do that all over the world, primarily based on managing the land in a way that’s smart, and of course using the manure and the waste from the animals in a way that enhances soil quality, soil fertility, et cetera. So that is the fundamental approach we take to ensure that agriculture, the way we do it, is actually climate smart and sensitive, and actually climate-improving.

MS. TUMULTY: Well, I would also like to bring up a topic–I brought it up in our earlier segment–which is the political component of these problems. Heifer International works in a lot of parts of the world that have had a long and difficult history of civil strife. How important is strengthening civil society to building these sorts of resilient systems that you are talking about?

MR. FERRARI: So, it’s extremely important. And the way we try to approach that–and I think we’ve been quite successful–is to work with local communities, okay? So, we’ve got to create a sense of community and participation and inclusion across the whole villages where we work. Then, an informed collective operations, generally they’re co-cops, cooperatives is the way they are in this country. And once you’ve got these cooperatives successfully connecting to markets and generating positive cash flow for the communities, now that develops economic and political power. They can then go to local, regional, provincial, national governments and begin to demand change, such as, for example, can you build a road? Can we have electricity? Can we have municipal water systems. All sorts of fundamental requirements to build a society that is stable and flexible and resilient.

But until these communities, especially the poorer communities, can actually show that they have economic power–right?–economic advantages that they are generating income for themselves and capital for themselves, they will not have power. And our work, our work is very much oriented towards developing these political capacities on the part of co-ops all over the world. And it can be very successful because it’s a sort of a self-feeding system. It’s a virtuous cycle. Because once you begin to have success in the marketplace, you have resources with which you can make more investments, which then generates more income and capital and savings, which then allows you to get the attention of the political infrastructure. And we’ve got lots of examples of where that happens.

But it all starts with the farmers being organized, self-motivated, self-reliant, accountable to themselves, and organizing themselves to sell high-quality goods at a profit.

MS. TUMULTY: Well, Mr. Ferrari, thank you so much for joining us today. In so many ways, big and small, you really are out there literally changing the world.

And tomorrow, please join Washington Post Live again at 11 a.m. for a special program on America’s health future featuring former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden and 23AndMe founder Anne Wojcicki. And at 3 p.m. Eastern we’ll examine the outsized impact of COVID on higher education with Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell and Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard. And as always, you can head over to washingtonpostlive.com to register for these and other upcoming events. Thank you again to our guests and thank you to our audience so much for joining us today.

MR. FERRARI: Thank you, Karen. Thank you very much, Karen. Thank you very much.

MS. TUMULTY: Thank you.

[End recorded session.]

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