Commentary: Think tanks don’t really help ag
Think tankers think they run the world, but I think they waste money with opinions generated by highfaluting know-it-alls not really accomplishing much of anything in the overall scheme of things.
There were 6,826 think tanks from 182 countries identified by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania and invited to participate in a listing and ranking of the most prestigious think tanks involved in public policy research and initiatives during 2012-2013.
Of course, the U.S. leads the world in think tanks with 1,828 of them identified by TTCSP. A far second is China with 426 think tanks. The United Kingdom and India are next in a close race of 287 and 268 respectively.
So, what are these thinkers thinking about or trying to tinker with? The TTCSP goes into this by classifying each think tank in areas of emphasis in a recently released 117-page report.
Here are the four high-level classifications of think tanking: Top Think Tanks in the World (with three subcategories), Top Think Tanks by Region (subcategories of 10 regions of the world), Top Think Tanks by Area of Research (there are 12 categories of research) and Top Think Tanks by Special Achievement (there are 22 achievements).
You might guess that think tanks focusing on agriculture would earn a subcategory somewhere in this listing process, but that isn’t the case. After reading about several of the think tanks, it is obvious that many of these think tanks take on projects related to agriculture and try to significantly impact public policy on ag in countries all over the world.
The closest I could find to focusing on agriculture was the subcategory of Top Environment Think Tanks. There were 70 of them in this subcategory. The top 10 think tanks in this subcategory are as follows: 1. World Resources Institute (U.S.), 2. Stockholm Environment Institute (Sweden), 3. Worldwatch Institute (U.S.), 4. Brookings Institution (U.S), 5. Resource for the Future (U.S.), 6. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (U.S.), 7. Earthwatch Institute (U.S.), 8. Chatham House (UK), 9. Ecologic Institute (Germany), 10. Earth Institute (U.S.).
Some of these think tanks are familiar to some of us, but what do they accomplish or have they accomplished that supports U.S. agriculture and the environmental efforts of American farmers and the agricultural industry to feed much of the world?
I recognize some of the top 10 environmental think tanks as activist organizations that issue news releases opposing big farming and conventional farming. A bigger share of the environmental thinker organizations quietly do their thing, whatever that is. It makes me think of documents being handed off to politicians in back rooms out of the public’s sight—passing along reports similar to a CIA analysis of threats to the world’s security.