MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State University Provost Charles Taber welcomed nearly 300 guests from 22 countries to the ninth Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Meeting of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL) on Monday morning in Forum Hall at the K-State Student Union.
As part of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, GASL annually convenes its conference meetings to initiate open discussions from varied perspectives so these questions can be answered. This year’s conference, Innovation for Sustainable Livestock Systems, takes place all this week at K-State.
Representatives from the livestock industry, agricultural research, global nonprofits and several governments came to Manhattan to work on these challenges, discuss their visions for the future and work toward sustainability for this critical industry.
In his opening remarks, Taber noted the university was the first operational land-grant university in the United States and remains committed to serving Kansans and the world through learning, discovery and engagement.
Kelsey Olson, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, also welcomed the crowd of international visitors by citing the state’s long history as a hub of livestock production.
From the territorial days in the 1800s, when cattle drives ran from Texas to the Kansas town of Abilene, now a short drive west from the conference site, livestock has always been a part of this state, Olson said.
She noted the state’s dairy industry is the fastest growing in the nation, and the animal health corridor – which reaches from Manhattan through Kansas City to Columbia, Missouri – is home to 300 companies and a large contributor to the state and the industry.
She said the state initiated an animal disease traceability project two years ago and now has many other states interested in participating.
Invoking the title of this year’s GASL meeting, Olson said developing innovative ways to contribute to sustainable livestock production is central to the state’s efforts.
In officially opening the meeting, Berhe Tekola, director of the Animal Production and Health Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, explained how GASL seeks to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals of 2010.
In particular, Tekola said much of GASL’s work applies to Goal 1 – No poverty; Goal 2 – Zero hunger; and Goal 17 – Partnerships for the goals.
GASL aligns its work with four overarching and interlocking themes: food and nutrition security; livelihoods and economic growth; animal health and welfare; and climate and natural resource use.
Each of these four topics was the focus of a series of expert presentations through the rest of the first day.
GASL Chair Fritz Schneider, ended the opening ceremony by first noting that this week’s conference is the first to be conducted in the United States and first to be organized in close collaboration with a university.
He credited K-State’s global reputation for research, teaching and outreach as a critical component in the choice to bring the meeting to Manhattan.
Schneider said innovation is crucial for a sustainable food system and that a central tenet for GASL is to support and magnify the work of its partners with a multi-stakeholder approach. “We advocate for conversation and change,” he said.
— Jason Hackett, K-State Research and Extension
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