‘Invest an Acre’ initiative to help fight rural hunger

Some Buffetts are billionaires, some are Parrot Heads, and at least one is a farmer/philanthropist. The first is Warren Buffett, the second is country singer Jimmy Buffett, and the third is the unassuming son of Warren, Howard Buffett, Illinois corn and soybean farmer.

Buffett has shunned the spotlight of his famous Nebraska father for years and has carved out a career as a tiller of the land. He’s rich, but his connection to the land is stronger than the urge to make money. Now, Howard Buffett has formed an initiative designed to fight hunger in rural America, the Associated Press (AP) reported April 19.

The AP said Buffett and others plan to have the initiative encourage farmers all over the country to donate profits from the sale of one care’s crop to the charity Feeding America. That agency will use the money to support food banks in rural communities. Advocates fighting poverty have stated that malnutrition is a serious problem in many of those communities, a problem often overlooked.

Buffett, who formed his own foundation to combat hunger in 1999, told the AP, “Poverty and hunger in rural America is very much out of sight, out of mind. It doesn’t jump out at you. It’s not like the brazen images of starving children in Ethiopia … but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as devastating to people who are hungry.”

Buffett told the AP that the idea of having farmers aid the hungry is nothing new, but he hopes the group’s partnership with the agribusiness conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) will give “Invest an Acre” a nationwide reach that will set it apart from other initiatives.

Archer Daniels Midland will help by sending out thousands of postcards to producers asking them to support the program. Farmers will be able to donate when dropping off grain at an ADM elevator or make pledges when they sign contracts with the company. Jen Hogan, manager of grain origination at ADM, emphasized to the AP reporter that there will be no financial incentives for participation and no obligation to do so, but Hogan said she believes, “many ADM customers will jump at the chance.”

She further noted that she believes farmers, who already give to schools, churches and others charities, will “see the value in being able to help feed their neighbors who have run into some hard times.”

Heretofore, Buffett’s foundation has concentrated on areas of the world where war, geographic isolation or other challenges exist. Some 85 percent of the foundation funding goes to other countries. Buffett said, however, that the foundation has been giving more attention to domestic hunger problems in recent years. He told the AP that the economic downturn has driven many Americans into unemployment and caused need. Feeding America, an umbrella group consisting of 90 percent of the nation’s food banks, said its network of food banks served 25 million in 2006, and it jumped to 37 million in 2010.

The partnership will work this way: ADM will target producers who sell to about 250 of the firm’s elevators, Buffett’s foundation will pay the program’s administrative and marketing costs and Feeding America will distribute the donations to local communities.

No government involved, just pure private charity to help our brothers and sisters. Something you don’t see too often anymore.

I’ll see ya.


An Iowa native, Peter Graham has been a rural newspaper editor for more than 40 years. He currently edits a twice-weekly paper in Western Iowa. You can contact him at (712) 642-2791 or [email protected] sourivalley times.com