Six past agriculture secretaries met at Kansas State University last week to debate major national and global issues including the farm bill, biotechnology, world food trade and climate change.

Barry Flinchbaugh, Ph.D., K-State professor emeritus of agricultural economics, moderated the conversation between the six former secretaries: John Block, Mike Espy, Dan Glickman, Ann Veneman, Mike Johanns and Ed Schafer.

When Flinchbaugh asked if the U.S. should continue to provide a safety net under farm income as it has since 1933, Dan Glickman said yes, but it should be more focused on risk management and true natural disasters.

“We’re entering, I believe, an era of much stronger farm prices and farm income, and sending out checks is under great review right now,” Glickman said. “But we should not take this as an opportunity to get rid of farm programs.”

The panel discussed the ongoing interest in feeding a growing population that is expected to top 9 billion by 2050. The use of different technologies and practices were discussed as potential solutions.

Glickman later addressed biotechnology stating there’s no silver bullet to solving the need to feed a growing world population. He said genetically modified crops is the only answer, but new technologies, including genetic engineering, are necessary to addressing future water, pest and climate issues.

Panelists shared personal stories from their time in office, but most of their time was spent addressing future concerns.

The panel is part of the university’s Landon Lecture Series.