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World Food Prize selection shows importance of water to world food supplies

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• Daniel Hillel has been named the recipient of the 2012 World Food Prize.

• The award is given annually to an individual or individuals who embody the spirit of Norman Borlaug in helping feed the world's hungry.

• Hillel's selection as winner of the World Food Prize reminds us of the importance of water to the world's agriculture.

The news that Daniel Hillel has been named winner of the 2012 World Food Prize is an important reminder of just how critical water is to food production.

I just returned from a trip to the Platte River Valley in Nebraska where irrigation is a way of life. In fact, much of the irrigation technology used in the Southeast and Delta regions of the U.S. was first developed in Nebraska.

Although we're used to seeing center pivots in the Mississippi Delta region and to a lesser extent in south Georgia, it's amazing to see every field equipped with pivots as you drive along Interstate 80 in the region between Grand Island and Gothenberg, Neb.

Hillel, an Israeli-American scientist, appears to be a great choice for the World Food Prize, which is named in honor of the late Norman Borlaug. Borlaug is generally credited with being the father of the Green Revolution and is one of the few Americans ever to win the Nobel Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who announced his selection in Washington, said Hillel’s work to bring water to crops in dry-land regions revolutionized food production, first in the Middle East and then around the world over the past five decades.  Hillel developed what is called “micro-irrigation,” which reduces the amount of water needed to irrigate crops while improving agricultural yields.

Hillel will receive the $250,000 prize which goes with the World Food Prize designation in ceremonies in Des Moines, Iowa, this fall. That's a nice honor for Hillel. But it's just a miniscule fraction of what his work has meant to millions of small farmers around the world.

It also reminds us of the thousands of U.S. farmers who invest millions of dollars daily on irrigation to make sure they produce as much food, feed, fuel and fiber for the world's population as possible.

A biography of Hillel is at www.worldfoodprize.org/laureate.  Video clips from the ceremony are at www.stateondemand.state.gov. Hillel can be reached via email at danielhillel@gmail.com.

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