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Howard Buffett

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Howard Buffett
Howard Buffett.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nebraska's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1951 – January 3, 1953
Preceded byEugene D. O'Sullivan
Succeeded byRoman L. Hruska
In office
January 3, 1943 – January 3, 1949
Preceded byCharles F. McLaughlin
Succeeded byEugene D. O'Sullivan
Personal details
Howard Horman Buffett

August 13, 1903
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
DiedApril 30, 1964(1964-04-30) (aged 60)
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Leila Stahl Buffett
ChildrenWarren Buffett
Doris Buffett
Roberta Buffett
Alma materUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln
OccupationBusinessman, politician, investor

Howard Homan Buffett (August 13, 1903 – April 30, 1964) was an American businessman, investor, and politician. He was a four-term Republican United States Representative for the state of Nebraska. He was the father of Warren Buffett, the famed American billionaire businessman and investor.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Heuermann Lecture: Howard G. Buffett and Howard W. Buffett
  • ✪ Howard G. Buffett and Howard W. Buffett: Forty Chances
  • ✪ SIPA Stories — Howard W. Buffett MPA ’08


(inspirational rock music) To start our conference, we have a really special event this afternoon. Many of you will know about the Heuermann Lecture series that the university started, we're now in our fifth season of that lecture series, that focuses on food security, natural resource security, agricultural production issues, rural landscape security broadly writ. Where we bring leaders from around the world, in the various subjects important in those areas, to our campus to dialogue with us. The Heuermann Lectures were enabled by the generosity of the Heuermann family, for which the lectures are named. We're very pleased, as is the case, I think, in every lecture, maybe but one, Keith has missed one of these in the last four years, to have Keith Heuermann with us here today. Keith, if you would stand and be recognized, and let us thank you for your support. (applause) The Heuermann's have been longtime leaders in agriculture in the state of Nebraska, and beyond. From the Phillips, Nebraska area, rural place about, a little over an hour, hour and a half west of us here in Lincoln. So, Keith, thank you very much for your enormous generosity in helping us develop such a great lecture series. The lectures are live streamed, today they're being live streamed on cable, and aired on NET, so we appreciate the opportunity to spread that beyond the room that we're in here, and I know today is going to be an exceptional one for all of us. So, let me, kind of, introduce to you first, our two speakers that we have joining us today. This is going to be very much a dialogue format, not a stand up kind of lecture, but a dialogue amongst the three of us. We are extremely pleased to have for our lecture topic this afternoon, finding hope, pioneering your own 40 chances. Our two guests are no strangers to many of us in the room here, natives to Nebraska. First, Howard G. Buffett, he's the Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, immediately here on my right. A private family foundation working to improve the standard of living, and quality of life for the world's most impoverished and marginalized populations. He's a farmer, businessman, philanthropist, photographer, many of us know about his photography, and former elected official. Howard has dedicated his life to addressing global food insecurity and conservation. He has traveled to 139 countries, documenting the challenges of preserving our biodiversity, while providing adequate resources to meet the needs of a growing global population. Howard is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador against hunger, and serves on the corporate boards of Berkshire Hathaway, The Coca-Cola Company, and Lindsay Corporation. He operates a 1,500 acre family farm in central Illinois, and oversees three foundation operated research farms, including over 1,400 acres in Arizona, 4,000 acres in Illinois, and 9,200 acres in southern Africa. Howard has written extensively on conservation, wildlife, and the human condition. "40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World" much of our topic today is surrounding this book that we'll talk about in a few minutes, documents the people, places, and experiences that have shaped his evolving views of the role of philanthropy, and addressing the world's most difficult challenges. Please join me in welcoming Howard G. Buffett. (applause) And also joining us, to my far right, is Howard W. Buffett, now you see what I'm, the challenge I'm going to have in this dialogue. So, we decided I would sit in the middle and look at which Howard I wanted to talk to, to keep it simple. Howard W. Buffett is a lecturer here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A role he started with us last academic school year, and is a lecturer in international and public affairs at Columbia University in New York. He teaches management techniques for improving the effectiveness of foreign aid, and global philanthropy. Howard also serves on the Board of Counselors for the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and is currently a member of the UNL chancellor search committee. Howard is a trustee of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and previously served as the foundation's executive director. Prior to joining the foundation, he served in the US Department of Defense, overseeing agriculture based economic stabilization, and redevelopment programs in Iraq, and in Afghanistan. For his work, he received the Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award, the highest ranking civilian honor presented by The Joint Chiefs of Staff at the request and approval of the combatant commanders. Prior to that, Howard was a policy adviser for the White House Domestic Policy Counsel, where he co-authored the president's Cross-Sector Partnerships Strategy. He earned a BA degree from that institution in Evanston, Illinois, known as Northwestern University, and an MPA in Advanced Management and Finance from Columbia University. Howard currently lives in Omaha, where he and his father operate a 400 acre no-till farm, and he's joined today by his wife Lili, and their new son, who is with them as well today. So, please join me in welcoming Howard W. Buffett. (applause) Thank you very much. I think many of you probably know about the 40 chances book that was published in 2013 by Howard as the author, along with his son Howard. And it talks about living in a world where you really have 40 chances to make a difference. And we're gonna talk about where that moniker really came from, Howard, today. And it's based on, if you had the resources to do something great in the world, what would you do? How would you use those resources? How would you make a difference? Where are the needs for making that difference? So, what we're going to try to do in the next 40 minutes or so, is just to kind of dialogue about some of the things that are the learnings in this book, some of the observations that both Howard, and Howard have had during their lifetime of philanthropy. And I think they have some great challenges for us to consider, including how we think about world futures in this conference over the next couple of days. So, Howard, got it? Yeah that's right. (laughing) I think that's kinda cheating. Would you kind of explain for us the origin of the 40 chances. We started our book tour, I'll get to your question in a minute, but and it talks about 40 chances, and why that's important, a mindset is what it really is, and we would do it, and we started in New York, and my dad went with us to kick it off. And every time I would say that you really had 40 chances in your life, he'd give me this very dirty look, and it was like, "I think I have more than that." So, you have to think about it, and I learned to kinda, not to take it too literally, you have to think about it more as a mindset. But basically I was going down, farmers don't have that much to do in January, February. They always tell you that they have a lot to do, but we really don't, and so I went down to Sloan Implement, which is where I buy a lot of my equipment, and they had this guy who was gonna tell us how we could plant better, and you know, every farmer thinks they know how to do everything right already. So, I thought this would be interesting. And so, he started out telling us that we really didn't think about our business the right way, and that we go out and we plant, and we spray, and we fertilize, and we harvest, and we do these different things, but we think about them in pieces, and we just kind of blend them all together. And he said, "What you really need to do "is think about it in the terms "that by the time your dad gets off the the tractor, "and lets you get on it, you probably are gonna have "40 crops that you plant." And I had never thought about it that way, and I realized that that's not very many. And so you want to get it right. So, it affected my farming a little bit, but then technology fixed that. Cause I was thinking, you know, I gotta straight rows, and then I got GPS, so it fixed that problem, but anyway, most problems aren't that easy to fix. So, essentially I started thinking about, you know, your life is a lot like that. By the time you really get through school, you get enough experience that you're, you know, better at making judgements and better at making decisions, you know, you might have 40 really solid years of doing what you're gonna do. And that's not that long. So, the bottom line is you need to think about that life has a certain amount of urgency to it, and I don't think, and a lot of the places where we work, there's not enough urgency to tryin' to solve the problems. So, the 40 chances really came out of planting school in one February, and kinda changed my mindset about how I look at some things. So, your dad, wrote the forward to the book and he describes you as a force of nature. He also describes you as the Indiana Jones of his field. My mother had other descriptions that weren't so nice. Said your only speed is fast-forward, he also says, "In this ovarian lottery, "my children received some lucky breaks." What was it like growing up the oldest son of Warren Buffett, and how did that influence your thinking about philanthropy? Well the greatest thing is we didn't have to worry about much, I mean, you know. We didn't, and the other thing is that Warren Buffett was not a household name, you know, for the most part of when I was growing up. I mean, it started to change a little bit in junior high school, and a lot more in the last few years of high school, but, you know, people didn't know who he was, and he hadn't quite done evertyhing that he had done today, at that point. And so, it wasn't nearly the amount of impact that, probably, some people imagine. The great thing about it was, you know, we did have every advantage, and my mom and dad both, not just spoke about, but really lived in a way that they gave back a lot to the community. And they really believed in that, and so we didn't, we learned it as much by watching as we did being told. Which is a much more powerful way to learn something. And that could be good, and that could be bad, but I mean, you know, in this case it was a great learning experience for us, and they had high expectations. My mom and dad both had high expectations of all three of us kids being productive citizens, and giving back to our community in whatever way we could do that. And then, later when the foundation was created, they gave us some serious, eventually, some serious financial resources to do that. So, I mean, that's really, I think, where it comes from, is just growing up in that environment. You talk a lot about your mom in the book, too. And you say that a lot of your wisest, and most insightful friends, and colleagues, and advisers would be women. Can you elaborate on that? Well, this'll get me in trouble with all the men, but no, I've just found that, and it's true when you work in rural areas, in poor countries, I think you really see what women are capable of, and what they focus on. And a lot of times it's much better than what men focus on. And, you know, they put their family first, they will sacrifice for their kids. And it doesn't meant that husbands and men don't do that, but women have a different way of solving problems, and they have a different way of kind of analyzing things. I mean, there are some things they're not as good at as men, but women tend to really add a lot of value when you're trying to solve problems. So, they just, you know, women have been very influential in my life, but they've been, and they've been very helpful. And I think, you know, if you look at a lot of parts in the world, and certainly women have made a lot of progress in this country, but not enough, but if you look at a lot of parts in the world women are really put in bad circumstances, and they're under appreciated, they're not treated fairly. And when I look at that, I think, "Look at the resources you're missing. "Look at the missed opportunities "of including a big part of your population "that has a lot to offer." You know, we have some students sitting here from Rwanda, and if you look at Rwanda, it may be one of the only countries in the world that has over 50% of its parliament are women. It makes a big difference in terms of how the outcome is reached, if you include all of the population, with men and women, versus, you know, having it out of balance when women aren't part of the equation equally. And so, I think it's been a big factor in my life. So, Howard, you stared travellin', as it's talked about in the book, with your dad when you were 13. How did those, kind of, early experiences, travellin' together, impact you? Well, in a lot of ways, as may be obvious. I mean, I would say, probably first and foremost it allowed me to develop a relationship with my father, that I think, maybe, few sons get to really have, you know. I mean, we really were able to travel the world together, and see things, and analyze things, and struggle with things together that I think, you know, it's not always the opportunity that folks have. And so, that was a very unique opportunity for us to be able to bond in that way, and sometimes, maybe, closer than that we woulda liked, you think back to Vietnam. I have a few stories. Yeah, we can reference a couple places that maybe, where that was a little too close, but nonetheless, you know, that was a very unique thing, and I think it was important that he and I shared that connection because one of the things that I ended up missing out on, as a result of that, was having a tight peer group back home. I mean, we had moved to Illinois when, before I went to high school. And a lot of folks that I went to school with couldn't quite relate to some of the stories I was bringing back home from these places that we were going to, you know. They had certainly never seen it in real life, and maybe sometimes seen some of these things on TV, and usually not in the extremes that we were seeing, you know, first hand. And so, I think the other thing is that beyond the connection that we were able to share, it really pushed me to connect with other people when we were out travelling, and exposed me to dozens, if not hundreds of differences of kinds of cultures from all over the world that you could imagine. And so, I think I like to credit the fact that we spent that time travelling, it allowed me to have effectively no judgement on any person's culture, or life choices that they've made. So, I think that was a big factor as well. And then, I'll just wrap up by saying, you know, starting that at the age of 13 is a very interesting age to start exposing someone to both combination of the beauties around the world, I mean, we had some amazing trips to Brazil, and India, where you would see some of the most beautiful scenes you could imagine, and, but also some of the most horrific scenes that you can imagine, in terms of abject poverty. And I think one of the things that it led me to do, as a lot a children do at that age, is to start questioning it, and to be very inquisitive, and to really ask why. Why is there so much needless suffering around the world? Why are there so many of these people living in these conditions? That, later on, you tend to understand are because, well, there's other people that made some, probably, pretty selfish, or unwise decisions earlier down the line, that have led to those life conditions that they're in. And that's not always the case, but it definitely happens a lot. And so, part of what we wanted to explore in 40 chances, was to go and start digging deeper into why are there so many people who are living in these conditions that really don't have to be? You know, I'm gonna tell you the way the book really happened. I was sitting, we were all in Arizona doing, getting ready to have a board meeting or something, and I said, "You know, I've been around a lot, "and maybe it would be useful "to write a book for students. "You know, that they could use at school, "and just learn some of the things that we've learned, "rather than having to learn them, "you know, another way." And Howie says, "Dad, you're not thinkin' big enough." And that's one of the few times he could say that to me. Usually, I think too big. And so that's actually the origin of the book was then, well then what do we do? And we ended up, you know, it took awhile, but we got it done. So, you started your foundation focuses on conservation, and I know that's an area that's deep for both of you. Today, you're focused on food, water, and conflict. That seems like a little bit of a shift, what happened there? Well, in 1992 there was a guy I was visiting with, I was over at ADM at the time, and he was kind of givin' me a hard time about being so focused on conservation. And he said one line to me, and it changed how I looked at a lot of things eventually, he said, "No one will starve to save a tree." And at the time I didn't quite get the impact of that, and then I thought, "Well, every time I go, you know, "to the Serengeti, or the Marra, "or South Africa, or something. "To take pictures of the cheetahs, "or whatever I'm doin', "I'm gonna look around a little wider, "a little broader and stop in, "you don't just stop in, but I mean make a, "find a way to get to some of the villages "that are out in the really rural areas, "and try to visit with people." And I learned that the cheetah to us might be, "Wow, this is an amazing animal," and you get these great pictures, but a cheetah to them, or a lion, or something else, you know, any predator was actually a serious problem for them. And I know that sounds simple, but, you know, it was a, it made me realize, well if we don't take care of people, we aren't gonna have to worry about the environment, because we won't have one to worry about. And so, in 1997 I went to Uganda to see the mountain gorillas for the first time, and when we drove up through those villages to get to the park, to Bwindi, there were people who threw rocks at us. They spit as us, they yelled names at, I didn't understand them, but they weren't very happy. And that really made me realize that there's a, this is a lot deeper issue, and a lot of people want to treat it on the surface. Because if you treat it on the surface you're gonna have success, if you treat it on the surface you can feel good about what you're doing, and you can walk away from it at some point. When the truth is it's very, very deep rooted with very, very challenging solutions, and sometimes there aren't good solutions. And so, that really had an effect, that trip did on me. And so, I just started to understand that you can focus on conservation, and you can do a lot of cool things, and get a lot of great pictures, and do all these other things, but the truth is that focusing on conservation means you're ignoring the largest single element, which is the human being, that is going to have the biggest negative impact on our environment. And you can't away with that forever. So, it really came around to me, and today, basically, a lot of what we work on, I would say is all of it, because on some of our work, particularly in Eastern Congo, and DRC, it is very much tied into tryin' to preserve the park, which is Africa's oldest park, and one of the few places you can see mountain gorillas, besides Rwanda and Uganda, so it really kind of brought us around full circle where we're really working on all of those issues. So, we talked about in the introduction, you have a farm that you started with many years ago here in Nebraska, and Howard, you're now workin' with your dad in Illinois, in Arizona, in Southern Africa. How has what you've learned from your own farming background in Nebraska and Illinois helped you in the other parts of the world? Well, it's made me realize that we can't think like we think like here, and go do it somewhere else in most cases. And it's amazing cause I did a few experiments over the last 10 or 15 years, and I'd send a few American farmers, US farmers over somewhere and they'd come back, and I remember one guy went to Zambia and he says, "Well, they need anhydrous." And I thought, "Really, you know, "you gotta have natural gas, you gotta have (mumbles), "you gotta have all this stuff." And those are the kind of ideas that don't work, and they're the kind of thinking that you can build things, and then they don't work because you don't have the rest of the infrastructure, or the knowledge base, or the training to go with it. And that's just one example, but it's one very clear one. And so, you know, one thing I learned is, you know, the huge advantage is that all farmers face similar problems. Now, you may have different resources to overcome those problems, but you know, it's insects, it's drought, it's too much water, it's, you know, a bad hybrid, it's whatever it is that makes you have to deal with something, that whether you're in the United States, or whether you're in, you know, some other part of the world, you're dealing with a lot of the same issues. Now, you have very different resources. So, that part of it is a plus, because you begin to understand and learn as you become more, as you get more experience in agriculture what some of those are, but the thing that I think is the most important, to understand that a lot of it doesn't just transfer, you just can't. We're doin' this project in Rwanda that scares the heck out of me. We are putting in 63 pivots on 1,280 hectares with 2,000 farmers. Think of that, you're gonna have a pivot with 60 farmers under it. Now, you gotta put a cooperative together to talk about what crops you grow. Then, you gotta figure out how you're gonna market it, you gotta figure out how you're gonna manage the water, the maintenance, all these things. Nobody's tried this, that I know of, before, not at this scale, so it's a little scary to figure out. You know, because we're gonna have to solve problems as we go. It isn't like we have, there's no book that say's, "This is how you do it." So, you know, we're good at trying things like that, and sometimes we make it work, we have to make this one work. But it's really taking on the challenges and realizing that they have to be very country specific, culture specific, environment specific, and you can't cheat on that. You have to understand that diversity is what changes the risk profile for a small farmer, and you can't take that away from him. And you have to understand that they don't have credit like we have, they don't have infrastructure like we have, they don't have transportation like we have. So, how do you solve those problems without thinking like a Western, US farmer? And so that's some of what I've learned from it. So, last week, and I know you were part of it again, like you often are, was The World Food Prize, in Des Moines, which is kind of the Nobel Prize of agriculture, so to speak. Named for Norman Borlaug, who is known as the father of the Green Revolution, helped to revolutionize agriculture in India, in particular, in the 1960's, through new seeds, you know development of agriculture around technology, and helping to employ technology. In the book, you talk about the need, maybe, for there being a Brown Revolution, instead of the Green Revolution, as we thought about it, what, talk about that. Well, one of the best secrets about Norman Borlaug was that he was a huge believer in no-till. He realized that you can't continue to destroy your soils, and think that you can continue to be productive. So, what happens in every case that I've seen, and it certainly has happened in this country, well I will take it back, it hasn't happened in Argentina and Brazil, and I'm still tryin' to figure all that out, but there's some reasons that make sense to me, but you know, people do what's easiest, they do what works the best with the least amount of work. And so, if you go look at the easiest way to increase productivity when you're growing 30 bushels an acre, get some better seed, might be OPV, might be hybrid, throw on a little fertilizer, and you can triple your yields. So, that's great, except in Africa you have around 70% of all the soil's already degraded. You started many, millions of years ago in Africa with much less of a quality soil base across the entire continent than other places received. There's something we call, this can always be misinterpreted, the fertility belt. And if you go 30 degrees north, and you make a little jump up to 45 degrees north, and you take that swath all the way around the world, you're growing 65% of the cotton, almost 60% of the corn, 45% of the soybeans, 45% of the wheat. You get my drift, it's in that little strip all the way around, it's the temperate climate zone, pretty much. And there's not, if you look at it in Africa, it's like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, I mean, you don't get much out of that strip. So, most of our research has been directed towards those crops, rice is a good exception to that. There's only 20% grown in that strip, and that's grown, you know, in a lot of other places. But we think of agriculture as this science, the truth is there's a lot we don't know. We don't know nearly as much as we think we know, some of the times, and so, you know, we have to be able to focus on where those crops work, but we also have to be able to focus on the solutions, the places where they don't work. And so, I think for us it's been a big challenge learning how to make that adjustment. Well, let's shift gears a little bit, and talk about risk. And you talk a lot about risk in the book. Risk of where you put your chips, what's gonna pay off the best, or, you know, have the biggest impact. And you actually open the book with a really vivid story about meeting a warlord in the middle of the jungle in Africa. You write that you also like taking on risks that maybe others won't. So, talk a little bit about how you think about risk in philanthropy and where you put your bets. Well, this is how screwed up my life is. I'm planting in soybeans in May sometime, a few years ago, and I get this phone call from a friend of mine, Shannon, she says, "Howard, I don't care what you're doing, "but you need to get on an airplane tomorrow. "You have to get here, because they have "captured the number two general, Caesar Achellum, "in the Lord's Resistance Army. "You have to get over here, "cause I want you to do something." "Shannon, I'm planting soybeans," I said, "I have to finish." And she says, "Then hurry up." It's like, "Well, I don't have that option," you know. So, I called Anne, who works for us, I said, "Anne, go get two sleeping bags "at Kmart, or somewhere, or wherever. "We're gonna leave tomorrow for Africa. "We're gonna go up to Central African Republic, "in South Sudan, and we're gonna sleep "at the forward operating base. "I don't know anything more than that, "we're just gonna go." And so, that's basically what we did. And we didn't know what we were walking into, but that's not that unusual for me. And for me, it's just, it's an opportunity to really see what's happening, and how it's happening, and who's doing what to who, and what the outcomes are, and that helps me figure out what is it that we can do, or what shouldn't we do. And so, you know, I go, I was, you know, two weeks ago, we had to apply to the Treasury Department, State Department has to approve it, to take armored vests, rifle plates over to Congo, cause of where we're going at the time, and I don't think twice about it, and that's probably why my wife thinks I'm a little nuts. But, you know, I don't, I just think you go where you need to go, to see what you need to see, to understand what you have to understand. And if that's dangerous, that doesn't stop me from doing it. There are places and things that I don't do, occasionally. But, you know, we went down to El Salvador about two months ago, and went into the high security prison, and sat and talked to the top MS13 leaders for a couple hours, and those prisons are pretty much controlled by the gangs, so you go in there and you're not sure you're gonna come out, or you're not sure what's gonna happen. But there's only one way I can talk to these guys, and that's to go do it. I can't do it any other way. I can't understand what these guys think, or what they're trying to tell the world, which half the time is they have their own agenda in how they tell it, but I mean, I can't do that any other way. I can't get it in a book, I can't watch TV, I want to go do it. So, I don't let risk stop me from doing things to learn, in most cases. And I think for us as a foundation risk means something a little different, which is we are really, in my opinion, the risk capital, the best risk capital there is in philanthropy. It's a huge mistake that more foundations don't think of it this way, and I don't mean that as a lecture, those foundations have done a lot of good work, and will continue, but most private family foundations are accountable to the IRS, period. They don't have a bureaucracy, they don't have to have a big board, if they don't want to. They can make decisions quickly. I make 10 million dollar decisions in 30 seconds sometimes. So, why wouldn't we take our money and go to the toughest places in the world and be willing to fail? You have to fail to learn how to succeed. The problem is when people are afraid to fail they look for safe bets, and they don't take risk, and then they feel good about what they've done. And that's a mistake, in the area that we operate. So, risk to me is something that should just go hand in hand with the kind of philanthropic dollars that we have, and other foundations have. And I think it's just, it's a missed opportunity when we don't do that. I was gonna say, if you don't mind. Yeah, go ahead. Risk is also a tricky thing. So, first of all, I think, well obviously my dad and I think similarly on that, and he hit the nail on the head in terms of philanthropic dollars being the ultimate risk capital. But risk is also a tricky thing in the sense that when you look at a lot of the areas where our foundation operates, countries that have been in conflict recently, or are currently in active conflict, you have a lot of challenges. Because all of a sudden programs can inherently become a lot less efficient, especially programs that are focused on foreign aid through government programs and otherwise. So, essentially you've got a 200% increase in the likelihood that there'll be severe hunger in any country that's been in a civil conflict in the last 10 years. And you also have the compounding factor that ongoing periods of hunger leads an increased likelihood in conflict, right. So, you've got this mitigating, or sorry, this continuing cycle that becomes very challenging throughout time. And one of the graphs that we use in the class that I teach here at UNL shows that as the World Food Price Index goes up, so when we talk about what hunger does to affect potential for conflict and risk, as that Food Price Index goes up, the incidences of conflict that are breaking out all over the world just explode. And you can look at it, you can chart it out, and it's a very fascinating thing to look at. And we use it cause it's a really important tool to talk about how you've got to have agricultural development, and food assitance under control in a lot of these places to mitigate enough risk to not have ongoing conflict. And I could go on for another 10 minutes on this, but again, it's another big challenge when you look at operating, potentially, government funded programs, now in a lot of cases only five to 10% of funding that's intended to help impoverished individuals directly reach those individuals in a typical government funded program. Only five to 10%, for a lot of reasons. And one of those reasons is you've got a lot of challenges when you're in a climate with a high level of risk, and a lot of inefficiencies that come in that make that challenging as well. Now, Ronnie I'm not trying to hijack you. But I gotta say something here, cause I think it's really a core of the issue of risk, and being willing to take risk. When you go into conflict areas everything is different. So, we met with a warlord once in Somalia who was the real warlord in "Black Hawk Down" and Shannon was with me then, and she nudges me, and she says, "Don't get your picture taken with this guy. "He's like a really bad guy." And so, anyway we're talkin' to him, and he says, "Yeah, you guys are pretty foolish." And I said, "What do you mean?" And he says, "Well, we've go this refugee camp set here, "and a refugee camp set here, "we've got a refugee camp set here. "We put our people in this camp, "you bring everything, and we let you know "there's a problem in this camp. "We move the people from here to there, "and we move from here to there." And so it's a game, and so when you look at how he's talkin' about it, in terms of the government aspect, and the conflict aspect, nothing is easy. I had a guy from SPLA that I had, well he was drinking beer, I was drinking coke. It was much better he was drinking the beer cause he talked more, and so, you know, he started telling me this story about how these guys would surround a village, and then get the word out, and you've got 500 people, you've got landmines around the village, so no one will walk out. They can't get water, they can't get wood, they can't get anything, and so they learned that if they would only take 30%, roughly, more or less, of the food aid that was dropped, then they would keep, it would work, it worked. They'd keep dropping food aid, so they could get 30%. So, someone has to make that decision knowing that the militia groups are getting that 30%, but if you don't give it to them, in the sense of letting them, well I mean they take it by their own, but then you have this whole village that's gonna starve to death. And one last thing is we looked at conflict areas, and this is really funny because you would never think of this, I don't think you would ever think of this, except we work, there's this great guy, Ed Price at Texas A&M, sorry, I know they beat us in football all the time. But he's worked a lot with this, in conflict areas, and he, they came back at one point, and said, "Here's what you need to do, "you need to focus on conflict crops." I said, "What are you talkin' about?" Ed, he said, "Well, you can burn a maize field down, "corn field, you can destroy soybeans easily "by just dragging something through it, "and bustin' all the pods open, "but you can't really destroy a cassava field, "or a groundnut field, or you know." So, we started working on this whole new concept of conflict crops, so when you think about conflict, whether it's the warlord who's taking advantage of people who aren't catching on to what he's doing, or that somebody who's taking advantage of food aid in the distribution process, or whether it's figuring out how people can survive conflict, where they live, because you give them better ideas, you know, all of that, that conflict is a complicated business. And it's risky, and so I just want to throw that conflict part in there, because I think often times it's something we think about, we maybe read about, but when you're really there seeing it, and you understand, you know, how challenging it is, you have to get creative about solutions. So, that's that on conflict. Sorry, I hijacked you. No, no, that's okay. So, you referred to earlier, a couple of times, Rwanda, and we have a number of Rwandan students here with us today. You're doin' a lot of work there in that particular, why? Why Rwanda? Well, we're, it's interesting, cause we're doing more work in North Kivu, and Democratic Republic of Congo, which here's the border, which has a long history of conflict, going back over 20 years, back and forth with Rwanda in different ways. And so, what we're trying in the DRC is something in one of the most difficult places in the world to work, with one of the most, it has no real established rule of law. It's got the longest standing UN Blue Helmet group there, and it's very difficult. Rwanda is the exact opposite. I got my permanent residency in South Africa in 2005, we've worked in 44 countries on the continent, I've been to every country on the continent, I've seen a lot of Africa, it doesn't make me an expert, but what it allows me to do is observe. There is no country on the continent of Africa that functions as well as Rwanda. It is the exact opposite of Zimbabwe, or Eastern DRC, or Somalia, and so we've worked in all those countries, we continue to work in some of them, but I wanted to try a bigger idea that was gonna be a lot of money for us. And to do that I could not go anywhere other than Rwanda because I had to have solid, dependable, reliable government functions and processes. I had to have rule of law, I had to know that we would be treated fairly. I would have to know that if we didn't agree with something, we could at least sit down with reasonable people an discuss it. And we had to know that the people in the country would embrace change. So, to me we looked at, we looked at a lot of things to start what we're starting there with agriculture, but, and we know most of the, a lot of the countries, not most of them, but a lot of countries on the continent, and Rwanda provides reliability, and stability, and predictability in a way that no other country provides it. And the hope, and one of the reasons we're working in DRC is there's still a group there, the FDLR who were responsible, in many ways, for a large part, it's very complicated, so this is oversimplifying it, but that were very involved in the genocide. You have the ADF there, who would like to overthrow Uganda, you have all these different things going on in Eastern Congo, it's this little, it's this one little spot, and you have more, you probably have 40 different armed rebel groups in that one area. So, when you look at Rwanda, and you look at the future, you have to believe that they can protect their own borders, and they can develop a more democratic process, and that they will be able to preserve the kind of process, and government, and integrity that they have in those processes now. And there's a lot of challenges for Rwanda, this is not a cakewalk. I mean, this is not easy, there's a lot of people that want to see President Kagame fail, there's a lot of people that want to see the country fail. And so it's not easy, but it is the one country that I feel we have the best shot at having success in. So, Howard W. We've talked a little bit about you teaching the class here, and you referred to it earlier in one of your comments some. So, what aspects of what's in 40 chances do you think the students find most interesting, or learn from in your class? Reflect on that. Sure. Well first. Allen, he needs cue cards. Yeah, I need help with this one. You know, this is actually a perfect opportunity to say thank you to UNL, and thanks to the CASNR team, I know Dean Waller, and Tiffany, and groups here, and thanks to you Ronnie as well for, you know, giving me the opportunity to spend time with the students here in Nebraska. Which has just been a truly tremendous opportunity for me, and is just rewarding in ways that I could share afterwards. Cause it's really an amazing student group that you have here at UNL, so I commend you for that. And really pleased that President Bounds is here as well because I'm really excited for what's gonna be in the future of the entire university here, looking forward. So, that gives me a lot of hope, and I've been really impressed with the group that we have. And we've got some former students in here as well, so you might be able to ask them afterwards. A couple of things, I think one is there are a lot of ways that some of the stories, and the anecdotes in 40 chances come through that you may not get by watching it on TV, or by reading an article, or a magazine, or and certainly, probably not by reading a standard textbook. And so I think it really helps bring some of this to life in a way that's unique, and through and individual voice, most of the time through my father's voice that allows folks to see in, and peer underneath what's going on in ways they don't otherwise have access to that. So, I know that the students get excited about that. We had the opportunity to bring in a lot of guest speakers in our course as well, who are profiled throughout 40 chances. So, my dad mentioned Ed Price, we had Ed fly in and do a guest lecture earlier this year, and just again the students with the opportunity to meet someone like that and to hear the stories and the work that Ed's been doing his whole life, whether it was in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, or whether it's in Ghana with the foundation. What we're doing, it doesn't matter again, it's an opportunity to connect with someone and to learn their story in a deep way. And I'll say finally with 40 chances I think we've organized the book in an interesting way, it's 40 short stories and it's not spelled out like this, but as you go through the book, and you read these stories, you really find that we're talking about three categories of things. We're talking about people who's work have really inspired us, like Ed Price, or others. People who are, in a lot of cases, unknown heroes, names you've never heard of before, but who are dedicating their entire life, and their entire career to making a difference for others. We also talk about places that, as I referenced before, a lot of students aren't getting exposure to. Places that, where we've tried to make a difference, and maybe we failed, and what we've learned from that, and places where there is a lot of hope, and where a lot of progress has been made, and that's important. And then the final, kind of component of this, is we talk about a lot of processes in the world of philanthropy, and donor aid, ones that don't work, we focus a lot on that, and then ones that do work, and the ways that we think we can make the ones that don't work a lot better. And so, you get a whole mosaic of information and knowledge around international development and agricultural policy that I think the students get a real kick out of. And again, I think I see Amanda here, and there's probably others that you can talk to afterwards, cause they were just, they have been absolute superstars. Amanda, you get an A now. Yeah, (laughs) she did get an A. But no, they're really off the charts, the students here at UNL. So, I can't commend what you've done, you know, through INA or more, so. I'll tell you a little side note, grandstand a little bit here, Howard told me at the end of his first semester of teaching that he was more impressed with our UNL students than he was with the Columbia students, so I really love that. Really like that. Wow, you won't be going back to Columbia. (applause) I can't admit that publically. (laughing) So, kind of a question for both of you. We'll kind of begin wrappin' up our dialogue here, so we can dialogue with the audience in questions from the floor, so be thinking about things you might want to address to the Buffets. There'll be roving mics on the floor that will come to you and will allow you to articulate a question. Any difficult question just address to him. So, first kind of question for both of you to respond to, there are lots and lots of things you could've devoted your philanthropy to. You chose ag. and food, why? You said we chose agriculture? Ag. and food. Well, and I would say we've evolved a little bit to conflict mitigation, but, you know, my dad always from an early age he would always say, "Now, remember "stay in your circle of competence. "And your circle of competence is very small," he would tell me. So, I knew I had limitations, and so, you know, I've had this incredible opportunity to be involved in agriculture, both from being on boards, like ADM and ConAgra, to farming myself. I mean, I got off the combine at 7:30 last night, or 8 o'clock and I love that. And so, you know, I kinda from one end to the other I've had this opportunity, and so that's my deepest, broadest base of knowledge. And so, if I look at one of the biggest problems in the world, it's people who can't feed themselves. And when you meet farmers who have literally had children die because they could not provide food to them, you look at that and you think, "That is absolutely, there is something wrong with that." Okay, as a farmer, there is something wrong with that. So, that just gets your attention as a farmer. And, it is something that is very easy for me to engage in, and get involved in, and then, you know, we've gone different directions with it, but that's the basic reason why we're in agriculture and conflict mitigation. We've done a lot in water, but the water, we decided we needed to really focus on how it impacts, and how it integrates with agriculture, so we don't do things outside of water, that is related to agriculture. And conflict mitigation has just evolved, because we started working in really tough countries, and whether it's Burundi, or Sierra Leone, or Liberia, a decade ago, when they're coming out of conflict, when you go to those countries, and you meet people that have experienced just horrendous things in their life, and you think, "How can other people do this "to other people?" You can't go home from those experiences without saying, "That's a place I want to work. "Those are people I want to work with." And so, as I had those experiences in those countries, it really became hard for me not to go back. And, I took Howie to Sierra Leone one time, and he had a few experiences there he'd never had. And, you know, I always used to wonder when I was, you know, you ask him, he started travelling at 13, I used to always wonder, he would come home sometimes, he wouldn't talk to me much. And I wasn't sure why, and I was worried that he was seeing too much, too fast, too difficult, you know, too extreme, and then, you know, Devon, my wife, would say, "No, he's talkin' to me a little bit, he's okay." But it's a tough world, and it really angers me when some, like The World Bank, you know, in 2008 they went from, "Well, you're poor if you live on a dollar a day." And then, in 2008 somehow they decided, "You're poor if you live on $1.25. And then some economist sits there in a room somewhere and decides, "Well, this time we're gonna come out, "we're gonna use a $1.90, and man, "do we have a good news story because "the world got smaller for hungry people." I will tell you that the day they put that report out, and I'm in Congo, people are not eating better, they don't have more money to spend. It is really irritating to watch people take statistics and turn them into something so they can feel good, or so you can feel that you succeeded at something. The truth is it's a very tough world. There's 4 billion people that live out there that don't live like we live. That don't have clean water, that don't have enough food, that have kids dying from malnutrition, you know, whatever it is. And I have people who tell me, my friends, they say, "Howie, you have "to quit talkin' like that. "That's a bad story, we did that in the 80's. "That's over, we're gonna be positive now." And it's like, you can change the narrative anyway you want, and you can find pockets in the world where absolutely things have improved, no question about that. I would be the first to say that, but there are too many places in the world where things have not improved. And that's why we end up working because somebody should be there, and many other people are there, it's not just us, in some cases we're pretty lonely. In North Kivu, there's not a lot of people working there, but it is really frustrating to watch people use statistics to define poverty. I have to, I'll just give you one story. So, I'm in Beni, North Kivu, and I meet this farmer, and he says, "You know," and this is through a translator, and he says, "You know, some people "used to tell me that I lived on a dollar a day, "and I was really poor." He says, "I don't know if I lived on a dollar a day, "I don't know what I lived on, I couldn't tell you." And that's the other part that we forget, that this is not always defined in monetary terms like we would define it. And he says, "Now, cause of The Cacao Project," and I was up there looking at something we were involved with that, he says, "they tell me I make five dollars a day." And actually I think he said seven dollars a day, and he says, "Now they tell me I'm not in poverty anymore." And I said, "Well, how do you feel about that?" And he says, "Well, things are a lot different." He says, "I can buy my wife a dress, "I can send my kids to school, "and we eat at least two meals a day, sometimes three." So, there's no question that his life improved, but he can't put that in a monetary term. He can't tell you whether that's a dollar, or a change at three dollars, or where it changed. And so, I always think about him when I hear this, you know, these magic numbers, and these magic statistics that make something different in the world, just like when Ghana in 2010 decided to increase their GDP by 60%. They went from a low-income country to a middle-income country. Go ask somebody on the street if their life changed that day, it didn't change, okay. So, I think we have to be really careful about how we view statistics and the stories that people want to tell, and how they want to present that. Because there are a lot of people in the world that should be living in better conditions, and it takes a lot of resources, and a lot of effort to find those solutions. So, you'll find if you talk long enough with my dad, he is very much a realist. That I talk too much, right? No. (laughing) No, he's very much a realist, but I think that in keeping in the name of the conference, and the subtitle of our book, that it's also okay to be realistic about hope, and, you know, not to be overly positive, and to really talk about where there's opportunity to make change. And when you talk about the opportunity to invest in agriculture, well what that really is for me too is, and something for my father as well, is an opportunity to invest in women. When you look at the fact that 80% of the food grown in Africa by small holder farmers is being grown by women, and 70% of the food in Latin America, and 60% of the food in Asia, all being grown by women. When you talk about advancing agriculture, you're really talking about gender empowerment, and gender inclusion, and looking at a lot of human rights issues around women and the challenges that they face around the world. So, you've got three quarters of the world's population that is, the three quarters of the world's population that is poor is living in rural areas where agriculture is the primary activity. So, we have an endless amount of work in front of us to do, but we also know that by focusing on agricultural development, which by the way is three times more effetive at permanently lifting people out of poverty than any other kind of development. By focusing on agriculture development, we know we are directing our resources in an area that's gonna make the biggest difference for the biggest number of people, especially the most disenfranchised people that you have all over the world. And so that's part of, kind of the hopeful end of the realistic message that, you know, we can continue to do a lot better. He's always cleaning up after me. (laughing) One last question, and then we'll begin our questions from the floor. In the book, you talk about there being a wide spectrum of types of agriculture. Organic production systems, natural production systems, you know, high intensity, low intensity, small holder, you know, there's a wide, wide spectrum of types of agricultural production, and you talk about how they're all important, and yet you talk about the challenge out there, ahead, in terms of you feeding a growing global population, you know, the things we often talk about. And you contrast a little bit there, those different types, talk about that a little bit, if you want to, in our last. Get your questions ready. Well, I think that every, well I won't say every, but a lot of different types of farming systems have something to offer, and truthfully, the ones that will end up finding to be the most successful are ones that have probably merged things from all of them, or many of them. I remember, you know, calling a guy named Tim Lasalle, he used to be, he was the CEO of the Rodale Institute, which is all organic, and he made some comment in a farm magazine where they quoted him, and I call him up, and I said, "I don't believe you're growing "220 bushel of corn with no nitrogen, "with no synthetic inputs." "Come back and visit me." So, I went back there, and I got a lesson, I learned a lot, and I realized that I didn't think that you could feed the world on organic agriculture, but the truth is most, and there are people who would argue with me on that, and I'd be glad to debate them, but the most small holder farmers in Africa are organic by default, not because they're organic like we define it, not because they want to pay more for certain kinds of food, grown a certain way, they are just, they don't have inputs, they don't have a lot of things that we have. So, it's actually a huge opportunity in Africa to try to develop that agriculture differently than was developed in India under the Green Revolution, and it was developed in this country, and that is to take where they're at, and include really important parts of what I call biological farming, you can call it organic, you can call it whatever you want, and incorporate that and combine it with the kind of farming that we know here. Not they're all gonna have big John Deere tractors, or something like that, but I just mean, in terms of, the way we do it. And so, I think the most successful farming system long-term will be one that meets the three criteria that FAO puts out there, which is minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and crop rotation, and then you can put a whole lot of other things in there, like nutrient management, and water management, and all those things, but if I'm a small farmer in Africa, I have to really worry about my half acre, or whatever it is, because pretty soon there won't be enough trees to go slash and burn to go to the next half acre when I've depleted my half acre here. There won't be enough, and there's a lot of countries where there's not enough today. In fact, I would argue in most cases there aren't, there is not. So, what do you do? You have to increase productivity, but you want to do it in a way that you feel that in 10 generations you're still going to be able to be productive. You can't do that by simply using synthetic inputs, and I don't believe you can do it globally with strictly organic agriculture. I think it will take the best parts of both and you can do it at scale, you just have to change your behavior. You just have to get better at what you do, you have to be willing to change. You have to be willing to adopt, and get better educated, and take a, you know, take a little time to learn how to do something different. So, you know, somebody comes up to me, 30 seconds. that's a friend of mine in Illinois that says, "Well, I tried no-till at one time, it didn't work." And I said to him, I said, I don't think I put this in the book, cause Howie wouldn't let me, I said, "Well, is that what you said to your wife, "you were married, you tried "it one year and it didn't work?" I mean, you know, come on, I mean there's all sorts of stuff that doesn't work in one year, and nothing on a farm works in one year. It works the same every year, so I said, "Come on," and I've had farmers who, you know, have tried no-till, and they'll say, "Well, I did, I tried to "no-till my corn, and my soybeans." So, I said, "What kind of culture "do you put on the planter?" "You didn't tell me I had to put a culture on the planter." "Well, of course, you have to have "the right tools to do the job." So, you know, this is a tough long-term challenge, but farmers in Africa actually, if we can not, I mean, giving fertilizer to a small holder farmer who's poor is like giving heroin to somebody. I mean, it's like, it's addictive. It's like they're hooked on it, they can't, they're never gonna change. So, what we really need to do is go into it thinking, "Okay, let's think more long-term, "let's make sure that we give them "all the options, and we teach them how "to have a broader approach to agriculture." So, I mean that's what I hope we can do. Howard. Well, I'll just follow up by saying, you know, you're first question to me was kind of what, growing up and travelling with my dad, what did that really expose me to, and allow me to observe and grow? We spent countless numbers of days, and hours with farmers all over the world, and learning about their challenges, and their hopes. And I think one thing that was always so interesting for me was when we would come home, and we would come back to Illinois, or come back to Nebraska, and we would go and go on our own farm, and start harvesting, or planting, whatever was going on at that time of the year, and the one thing that always seemed so interesting about coming back and being in, either Paignton, Illinois, or being in Takamah, was really having that feeling, and sense of community when you would get home, and you would be out in the agricultural operations that's going on anywhere else. And so, as you talk about the importance of rural communities, and this being a rural futures conference, you know, I think that, probably, the greatest asset, or greatest strength that rural communities have across the country, and part of what makes the fabric of America so great is the fact that you have got these senses of community that's all over the place. Where people will step up and lend a helping hand, or watch out for someone else, and it just creates a sense of family that I think doesn't necessarily exist in a lot of urban neighborhoods, or other places around the country that really benefits, you know, the values and the principles of the United States, and what I think will continue to make us stand out, you know, for years to come. I have to say that this conference, and conferences like it, are probably the most important thing happening in America today. We built this country from rural America up. A lot of the population today wouldn't even know what you're talking about if you said that to them. Chuck Hassebrook we used to have some great conversations, he would challenge me on things, and give me ideas, and the truth is, if there's one thing in America that I watch, and I have watched for the last three decades, with a really disappointing view cause America is an incredible country. This is, you know, a great country, but we have allowed rural America to slip, and we've done that in policies in Washington, we've done it with different presidents that have allowed consolidation to take place without really the proper care, and I'm not targeting that at any particular company, or industry. It's just happened over time. And when your school closes in your town, that hurts, and when your tax PACE get's eroded, you don't get the same services that you used to have. And the political game is stacked against us in many ways in Washington. So, when I say this is one of the most important things happening in America, I'm serious because rural America has to survive and stay strong and it's the people sitting in this room, and the people coming to this conference that can do that, nobody else is gonna do it for us. That's a great ending. Here, here. (applause) So, I know we have mics at the, on the sides, so if you would get your hand up in the air if you have a question that you'd like to address to our speakers, please get the mic here. Chuck Hassebrook over here on the center. Chuck, you can't ask us a trick question, don't do that. So, they won't give you a microhpone. Just in case you need it. Yell it out, I'll hear it. (mumbles), well I shouldn't say (mumbles), but I was just interested in your thoughts on the most successful investments you've made in agricultural development in a developing world, what is it? What have you done in investing in agriculture that's really worked? So, to give our viewers, make sure they hear the question, the question is what is the most successful investment in ag. development that you've seen work? Is that right Chuck? Yep. I would actually say not much. After several hundred million dollars, I would say we've not had the kind of success we should have. Now, to be fair about that, we work in really, really tough places most of the time. It's why we've changed gears and decided to try something different in Rwanda. So, if you wanted to ask me what I think in the future will be our biggest success, it's gonna be the students sitting here. It's gonna be the kids, anybody under 30 is a kid to me, well under 40 now, but Allen, that doesn't count you, but, you know, it's that generation, it's that generation that is going to figure out how you solve the biggest problems we've ever faced. And have we had a lot of problems that have been reduced, and a lot of things solved, absolutely we have. But that doesn't take away from what a lot of people face today. And so, I think it's the next generation that's gonna come up, and you know, they're gonna face some tough challenges, but I think, you know, these kids are here, sorry, I don't mean kids like, you know, I know you're young adults, but you know, they're here to learn about agriculture. And we're gonna send a couple hundred young adults here, and hopefully more, and I will say the university has done, this university has done a better job of any other university we would talk to to make this program work, and we're really proud to do it with Nebraska, and they really showed leadership, they really, you know, stepped up to the plate when we had to figure out how do we do this, and how do we do it the most efficient way, in the best way, and with a number of students. So, when I look at it, I just think, "That's where my hope is for the future." Is that it took us a lot of money, I mean, if you would've asked me 10 years ago would I fund 200 or 300 students at any university, I woulda said, "Absolutely not!" Okay, I wouldn't have done it. Today, it's probably one of the cornerstones of what we hope will be successful, well it isn't probably, it is one of the cornerstones of what we hope is successful in Rwanda, as a model that can be used and replicated. I mean, what we've got to do is get one country that, in Africa, that get's most of it right, and we have to keep working at that. And then, you know, one of those components has to be agriculture. It cannot be successful, there is no country in the world that is independent, and feeds itself, and has done well without agriculture being strong. And so, that is the key at the end of the day. I mean, you can't, there's a whole lot of other pieces to it as you know, but I mean, that is absolutely a key. I think there's a question here with Amber. Hi, thank you both for coming, I come from Scottsbluff, Nebraska and question for both of you, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, one of the focuses is on water security, recently in California with the drought, Nestle Coporation has, sort of, gotten itself in trouble for pumping water for the resale market, and people have started a conversation on whether you see water as a commodity to be sold, or is it a human right, or is it a grey area in between, and what do we do going forward? It's a tragedy of the commons, but it's, yeah, more appropriate, I mean, and I think that, boy, I could get into a lot of trouble answering this, in a couple of different ways, but I'll say simply that like our challenges with fresh air that we're facing today, you know, we, gosh I don't know how to say this politically correct. I'll turn over to you dad. (laughing) Yup, okay. Well done. He's the safe one in the family, you can see that. He wasn't with me three weeks ago. That's true. I think that there's a certain amount of human greed that always finds its place, no matter what you're talking about. So, there will be people and companies who find a way to make water a profit center, and they will find ways to exploit it in situations like you're talking about where it's becoming a commodity because you attach a financial value to it. And that will make it a commodity. There's not a lot that I can say about how you solve it, except I would say that, you know, a little different situation is in Des Moines, Iowa where the water company is suing farmers, and that's fixable. Okay, we can't make it rain when we want it to rain, unless you could by a pivot, but you can't, you know, the world doesn't operate under pivot. But it does allow, that is fixable, if we change our farming behavior, and there's 50 different things you can do that work. So, where it becomes a regulatory issue farmers will change faster, and I would hope that we can change it as farmers without regulation. Because that never works the best. But, you know, in California, it's an extreme example right now. I mean, can you imagine if people started boxing up oxygen and selling that. I mean, it's just. He tried that once when he was a kid, but it didn't work. He said, "I have a better idea than lemonade stands," but it didn't work. So, I see lots of hands, there's a question waiting at the very top, and then we'll come back down, like Roger, you had one, and Richard, you had one. Got a two-part question. In America, 40% of what we plant never makes it to the table, of that 40%, 20% never makes it off the farm in the first place. First, how do we address that issue in America? And number two, have you seen those same types of numbers internationally? What was the first part of the question? Well, the first part of... Food waste. What? Food waste. Yeah, food waste, and everything that. Well, the first thing when I talk about food waste is I think about we have a totally failing H-2A system, which means we have a totally failing system to bring in people from out of this country to work, and it has gotten caught up in emotion, and politics, that is gonna hurt this country long-term, in a big way. We decided to, this is just me, I gotta learn it the hard way. So, we took our farm in Arizona, and I said, "Doug you gotta hire two guys "through the H-2A program. "I wanna really understand it." "Yeah, that's no big deal." Well, he would tell you it's a big deal now. So, he first goes to the state, and gets a permit, and I'm gonna answer the heart of your question, but this is a big part of the problem. And he gets a permit, then he goes to the federal government, he gets a permit, then he goes back to the state, and they tell him he has to advertise for US workers in California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. So, he advertises, nobody answers. So, he wants them for September 1st, now the key is that we don't know if we can, we need them from September 1st to September 30th, but the way our system works is those are the dates you hire them, those are the dates you get them. So, if I were growing cantaloupes, and oranges, and a bunch of other stuff, and I hire them for cantaloupes, and they come, and my cantaloupes aren't ready, but I need to pick my oranges, I can't take my cantaloupe guys from the H-2A, and put them on the oranges cause they don't allow it. So, it's got these very rigid rules, so then I asked, I called them up the other day, I said, "Doug, you never told me what happened "on the H-2A guys." And he says, "God, I was hopin' you would forget about it." I said, "Well, I'm not gonna forget about it." He goes, "September 1st came, "and I called the guy back that was "gonna bring them to us in the US." And I said, "Where are our two guys?" And not a single applicant from a United States citizen, okay, in four states, where we advertised, and then, but if you have two people from somewhere else, and on September 4th, three days into the job, an American shows up, you have to send one of those people home, hire the American, and then when they quit in two days because it's too hard, you're screwed. Okay, great system, so now, it's like, "Well, where are our two guys?" And Doug says, "Well, I called the guy "that was gonna bring them through to us, "and he says, "Well, who's your agent in Mexico?" "and Doug says, "I didn't know I needed an agent in Mexico." "So, we're gonna start over and try it again next year." But anyway, it is so cumbersome to legally hire people, that if you look across the state, and here's what people don't realize, from every state in this country uses labor on the farm. Whether it's onions in Georgia, or cherries in Michigan, or sugar beets, or something different in western Nebraska, I mean, every state uses it. So, when I think about agricultural waste, I don't think about me running a combine across cornfields and soybeans, cause I get most of that, and if you treat it right, it gets to where it's goin'. I think about the amount of waste that comes from the fact that we cannot get our act together, and I'm not gonna say on immigration, cause that's a way more complicated issue, but we cannot get our act together on how to bring in qualified, skilled labor into this country to support our US farmers when they need them. And it's a big problem, and it's only gonna get bigger because I don't see anybody with the guts to stand up and fix it. So, that's my answer because until you fix the political system, and the emotions that have created a whole different environment and dynamics for bringing in that labor, you're gonna continue to see huge amounts of waste across this country, and most of it's in fruits and vegetables. It's not in the cornfields in Nebraska. True, now that was a two part question. Second part was on the international side, and the quick answer is yes. The amounts of food spoilage, rotting, and hunger that exists because of loss of food is off the charts. And that is corn, and beans. Yeah, that's everything. That's everything. I don't have the number off the top of my head, but one short anecdote is in chapter 29 we talk about the work we did in Afghanistan, and one of them was some just totally rudimentary cool dry-storage, dry-storage it sounds like a refrigerator. No, it's just a hole in the ground that's covered for potatoes, for a potato farmer in Bamyan province, and completely transformed their life. Completely transformed their life. One little hole in the ground that's covered with just the right things to make sure that the potatoes don't spoil. So, the bar is extremely low when it comes to addressing food spoilage on the international side. And that's before you get to the waste on the plate, That's step one, and then you have the entire value chain. In the Western world. Yeah, we don't even have time for that. So, I'm gonna go to Roger Wehrbein up here, who has a question, we're gonna do three more. So, Roger just yell your question out if you would. I think I know the answer to the question, but based on your worldwide understanding. What do you consider the biggest risk to American agriculture in the future? So, to repeat the question, given, you know, your experience internationally, and your global understanding. What do you think the biggest risk is to American agriculture in the future? (laughing) Government. Government. Washington DC, government. And farmers who won't change behavior. So, we can control one of them, much better than we can the other one. But we have soil erosion today that's as bad as the 1930's, you just don't see it because we can cover it up with great big equipment. And so, you know, farmers have to change, and there are solutions to this, and there's answers to this, and there are even things in place today that could help them do that. If they would actually fund conservation programs, instead of, you know, they would actually give them money, you know, farmers would do a lot more. If the EQIP program really had money in it, that was significant for changing, you know, how farmers are able to do things, more farmers would do it. This is government driven, anything at scale is government driven. You can't fix, correct, change, or start anything in agriculture if the government isn't behind it, cause it's gonna be the money, and it's gonna be the policy. And you can't beat those two things no matter how hard you try. And the second part of the answer is what I answered earlier, if we, we have a system today, you can walk in most communities in a couple mile radius, and go into three, or four, or five different supermarkets. And you have a huge array of all this fresh vegetables, and you know fruits, and all these things that you can select from, and they're affordable, and they're safe, and there's diversity in what you can buy. Those three things are at stake for this country if we can't figure out how to put together a workforce, cause I will tell you it is absolutely false when people talk about, "Americans will do that." Go down to Yuma, Arizona, and walk out into one of those fields. I've done it 100 times, and walk out one of those fields, you won't find an American, but yet to hire those people, you have to advertise everywhere that they think an American will come from. And if you go out and stand in that field, you won't last one afternoon pickin' vegetables. So, the truth is we don't want to do that work, and that's okay if we have a system that supports our food industry that we have today, but we're gonna lose that if we don't do better at that. And it's something that most people could care less about. They don't care until they can't buy oranges, or that, you know, oranges become five times the price, or somebody starts getting sick cause some pesticide was used somewhere because there's no EPA or FDA to regulate it because it's coming from some other country. So, you know, people don't care until they go, "This is, I mean, I'm affected by it." You know, "It's impacting me." So, you know, that is a huge, huge issue that just people don't either understand or care about. And it's a big deal, it's a really big deal. I mean, it's a part where we spend a lot of our time working on, aside from a lot of what you've heard us talk about, and it's a big deal. So, Ronnie, only 30, wait, 30 seconds on, I just want to say. I think building on that, just the disconnect between the values in rural communities, and what Howard's talking about in terms of people not understanding where their food's coming from. What goes into that process, practices that need to be changed all the way down the food chain. That disconnect is going to be one of the dangerous things we have because then it goes all the way up to policy makers in Washington, and all the way back down effectively to the rural communities that, you know, are suffering as a result. So, we're gonna take Jordan, your question on the left, and we'll end up with Chuck Schroeder, fittingly, with our last question for the day. Hi, my name is Sarah Schellpeper, and thinking back on my classes and international experiences, when you guys work abroad, how do you work with government and culture when creating programs so that you don't disturb the society, or the economy there? You gotta repeat that again, I had a little trouble hearing it. Sorry, can you repeat it again for Mr. Buffett. Okay. I'm old, I can't hear, I can't see. I'm sorry. That's more than I get from most people. (laughing) When you choose to work abroad, how do you work with government and culture when creating a program that will not disrupt society or the local economy? Well, we work with very few governments because we that it wastes time. And, it's true, I mean, if we spent our time working with governments we would get nothing done, in most cases. Obviously, I already explained that's why we're in Rwanda because we believe in the government, and we can depend on the government in what they say, and what they do. Talk about P4P. P4P would be the best example I think, Purchase for Progress. Well, go ahead. Okay, well, I mean, I think, one of the programs, I didn't mean to interrupt, sorry, I thought you'd want to run with that, but... I'm used to it. (laughing) So, and we highlight this in a chapter that's called buy local, and it really talks about how there are a number of international aid programs that have been setup that inadvertently do exactly what you're saying, which is to destroy local economies around dumping food aid, and destroying prices for local farmers, and part of what we've tried to do is work with the UN World Food Program, and with some governments through them, not us directly usually, in making sure that a lot of those programs don't continue to cause a lot of suffering in the way that they've been designed, sorry. The worst program that policy makers ever invented was monetization. Because we take our commodities, and we go over and sell them in a place where farmers already struggle in marketplaces, have a difficult time, and then we dump those commodities onto the local market, and sell them so that a US NGO can pay US people salaries in that country. It is beyond a bad idea, and I've seen a lot of farmers, and people in marketplaces, in the value chain, suffer from that, It might be very clever, but clever ideas aren't always good ideas. And so, when you talk about having a negative impact on culture, it's those kinds of decisions that work for you, but they don't work for the people that you are supposedly trying to help. And so, you do more damage with your clever idea than what you do as an end result of what that money brings. I don't know if that answered it, but. And our last question, Chuck Schroeder. Well, number one, let me say that your message, realistic message, about the importance of rural communities could not have been a more profound statement to kickoff this conference, and I'm deeply grateful for that. Number two is I think about the evolution of your focus, from agriculture, to food, to conflict resolution, it strikes me that it has great importance to those of us trying to build strong, vital, rural communities in this country as well. There are interesting parallels. As you take the work of your foundation into areas of conflict and poverty, food shortages, it seems to me that while indeed, while you might focus on practices and technologies, both of you are a force of nature in your own style, but the critical important thing is the leadership that you would leave behind there that can carry forward sound practices, and leadership in their communities, drawing people together to do the things that you're trying to teach them to do. How do you find those leaders? How do you invest in their development for long-term sustainability? Yeah, it's tough. Well, leaders, and they don't have to be well known, and they don't have to be somebody you've read about, but leaders tend to evolve, they tend to surface. And so, it's a hit and miss thing because you be, you're betting on people, and some of those bets are gonna be wrong. But there's no other, there's no scientific way I know of to do it, it's way more of an art than it is a science. And so, you know, we're investing 150 million, well more than that, 200 million dollars in one area based on one person that we have confidence in. That's a terrible strategy, I mean it's terrible! You know, they tried to kill him last year, they hit him with two rounds from an AK-47, and he's walking around just fine, but that doesn't usually happen when you get hit with two rounds. So, it's a terrible strategy, but it's the willingness to take the risk to do it, but this guy is changing things that no one's ever had the guts to try, or the wherewithal to do it, so you know, it's a bet, and the way you keep it going is through, and anybody who knows me will know, Todd Sneller particularly is here, he'll know that I am like, I usually get kicked off every university campus I go to, cause I'm kind of anti-academic, but, so for me to be saying, for me, I save that for the very end. But there's a lot of context that I'd have to explain, but. Practical and applied, and yeah that's... But the truth is that we have to do the things we're doin' with the University of Nebraska with the Rwandan students, we have to find ways to do that more often, in effective ways, and provide those people who have the skills and the desire to be leaders, to help them be leaders. And, you know, it's not, you don't go boom, you're a leader, you know. That comes from life lessons, it comes from understanding judgement, and reading people, and taking some risk, and doing, I mean it comes from all sorts of. No one just gets born as a leader, they might have the qualities to be a leader, but you have to pull that out, you have to give them the resources to pull that out of themselves. So, you know, I will send more kids to college in the future when I would've told you, I would never have done that. Because that is a way to give them the resources to pull the leadership out of them. And that's gonna be a really important thing going forward in the countries where we work because it is a total lack of leadership that often, not everywhere, but many places, is what prevents anybody from changing anything. And so, you know, and leadership in a conflict area is a lot different than leadership in Washington DC. So, you have to have different people with different ideas, different skills, different tolerances for different things. And so, you know, it's a very tough thing to do, and we'll make some bad bets, but we've made some really good bets too. And, you know, if you look at Rwanda, I'm betting on president Kagame. I'm betting that this guy will take what he's done in the last 20 years, and take it forward in the next 20 years. That doesn't mean it's gonna look exactly the same, it just means you've got a leader, and somebody who's willing to take the risk, and take the chances. So, even though I made that statement, I think I made up for it by saying that I'll send more kids to school. (laughing) And some definitely to Lincoln. But anyway, I mean it's just. (laughing) Anyways it's, you know, you have to help people be leaders, you can't just expect them, are there some born leaders like Martin Luther King, or somebody, I mean who knows what it took for him to have the guts and to be able to stand up there and do what somebody like that did. I mean, we don't know that story. We just know how we've seen him, but that couldn't have been, you know, he didn't just get up one day and say, "I'm gonna be a leader." So, we have to help people be leaders. And on that great ending note, please join me in thanking Howard and Howard Buffett for a great. (applause) Our tradition with the Heuermann Lectures is always to give our lecturers a momento for them to remember the occasion of coming to the University of Nebraska, and being a Heuermann lecturer. It features The Tree of Life, which is much of what we're talking about here related to agriculture so Howard thank you very much. Thank you very much. For coming and being with us. I think maybe it was a gold bar. And Howard thank you very much. Thank you so much. Thank you. (applause) (inspirational rock music)


Early life

Howard Buffett was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Henrietta Duvall Buffett and Ernest P. Buffett, owners of a grocery business. Ernest P. Buffett's paternal ancestors hail from northern Scandinavia.[1] Buffett attended public schools and graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1925. While a student, Buffett was a brother of the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. He married Leila Stahl on December 27, 1925. The Buffetts were active members of Dundee Presbyterian Church.[2] After failing to secure a job in the family grocery business, he started a small stock brokerage firm.[3]


Entering the investment business, Buffett also served on the Omaha board of education from 1939 to 1942. In 1942 he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nebraska district in which Omaha was located. In that election, Buffett was seen as "a Republican sacrificial lamb in Nebraska's second district when FDR was a popular wartime leader."[4] Nevertheless, he went on to win the Republican nomination in the primary and then the subsequent general election.

He was reelected twice. In 1948 he again was the Republican nominee for another term, but was defeated for reelection; however, he was the Republican nominee for the office again in 1950 and won the office back. In 1952 Buffett decided against seeking another term and returned to his investment business in Omaha, Buffett-Falk & Co., in which he worked until shortly before his death.[5] He also served as the campaign manager for conservative Senator Robert A. Taft in Taft's 1952 presidential campaign.[6]

According to Warren Buffett biographer Roger Lowenstein:

Political philosophy

Howard Buffett is remembered for his highly libertarian Old Right stance, having maintained a friendship with Murray Rothbard for a number of years.[7] He "would invariably draw 'zero' ratings from the Americans for Democratic Action and other leftist groups."[8]

Buffett was a vocal critic of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.[4] Of the Truman Doctrine, he said: "Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns."[9] Buffett was also "one of the major voices in Congress opposed to the Korean adventure,"[8] and "was convinced that the United States was largely responsible for the eruption of conflict in Korea; for the rest of his life he tried unsuccessfully to get the Senate Armed Services Committee to declassify the testimony of CIA head Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, which Buffett told [Rothbard] established American responsibility for the Korean outbreak."[10]

Speaking on the floor of Congress, he said of military interventionism that,

In the summer of 1962, he wrote "an impassioned plea ... for the abolition of the draft" in the New Individualist Review.[6] Buffett wrote:

In addition to non-interventionism overseas,[12] Howard Buffett strongly supported the gold standard because he believed it would limit the ability of government to inflate the money supply and spend beyond its means.[13] His son Warren Buffett is not an advocate of the gold standard.[14][15]

Personal life

Buffett married Leila Stahl Buffett (d.1996), who was a descendant of the Stahl family from Estonia; they had three children:



  1. ^ writer, By Matthew Boyle, Fortune. "The Buffett mystery  - June 11, 2007". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Dundee Presbyterian Church, Omaha website". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  3. ^ Alice Schroeder, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (Random House, Inc., 2009) (ISBN 0553384619, ISBN 978-0-553-38461-1)
  4. ^ a b c Klein, Philip (2011-09-20) Buffett's dad was the Ron Paul of his day Archived 2012-01-19 at the Wayback Machine, Washington Examiner
  5. ^ "Howard Buffett." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.[1]
  6. ^ a b c Dionne, E.J., Why Americans Hate Politics, pg. 265
  7. ^ Stromberg, Joseph, The Old Cause, "Howard Homan Buffett: An American Original" (April 24, 2001),
  8. ^ a b Rothbard, Murray. Life in the Old Right,, first published in Chronicles, August 1994
  9. ^ Vance, Laurence (2006-12-04) Bill Kauffman: American Anarchist,
  10. ^ a b Rothbard, Murray N.. Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal, Ludwig von Mises Institute
  11. ^ Bill Kauffman, Ain't my America: the long, noble history of antiwar conservatism and Middle American anti-imperialism (Macmillan, 2008), pg. 114 (ISBN 0805082441, ISBN 978-0-8050-8244-9)
  12. ^ Girdusky, Ryan James. "The Other Buffett Rule". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Human Freedom Rests on Gold Redeemable Money - LewRockwell". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  14. ^ French, Doug (2009-04-03) The Trouble With Warren Buffett,
  15. ^ North, Gary (2010-05-29) The Wall Street Journal's War On Gold,
  16. ^ Cf. Howard Homan Buffett – entry at the NNDB

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles F. McLaughlin (D)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nebraska's 2nd congressional district

January 3, 1943 – January 3, 1949
Succeeded by
Eugene D. O'Sullivan (D)
Preceded by
Eugene D. O'Sullivan (D)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nebraska's 2nd congressional district

January 3, 1951 – January 3, 1953
Succeeded by
Roman L. Hruska (R)
This page was last edited on 15 April 2019, at 06:54
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